Central Park

City of Grinnell
Grinnell, IA
4 acres
Completion date
June 2017

Central Park has been re-envisioned and re-built, breathing life back into not only the park, but also Grinnell's adjacent downtown.  Designed to echo and affirm the historic quality of the entire business district, Central Park is truly - once again - the heart of the community. 

Gifted to the City by J.B. Grinnell in the late 1800s, the 3.8-acre Central Park has provided generations of citizens with a civic venue for festivals, concerts, community events and family gatherings. Recent improvements capitalize on the rich cultural history of Grinnell and reinforce the spirit and emotion the park has come to embody. 

RDG's landscape architects led an interdisciplinary design team of artists, architects, engineers, lighting designers, fountain specialists and others to complete all phases of work, including inventory and analysis of the site and its history, master plan development and comprehensive design services. 

Hand-formed, custom-fabricated terracotta masonry was incorporated into park structures in designs that echo the Prairie Style seen in significant downtown historic buildings, creating a resonant and integrated unifying theme.

In addition, the project team guided the fundraising effort to bring the dream to life.

Splash pad a night with lighting and multicolored fountains
Landscape Architecture

Designed to echo and affirm the historic quality of the entire business district, Central Park is truly - once again - the heart of the community.

A model of smart growth, the re-constructed park draws people from all sectors of the community to enjoy its natural beauty, make use of its range of amenities, and engage with cultural and community events of all kinds. 

Detailed design and construction of the improvements began following a public-private fundraising campaign, and include a new outdoor covered performance stage, open-air shelters, family restrooms, a central plaza with an interactive zero-depth spray water feature, relocated historic gazebo, exploratory play features and other amenities. 

RDG created detailed designs and constructed park improvements that capitalize on Grinnell's rich cultural history and reinforce the spirit and emotion the Park has come to embody. Indeed, the history of the Park and the whole downtown were driving factors in developing the vision for what Central Park could become. A 30-year-old gazebo was relocated on the site to offer better event opportunities and activate a little-used section of the park.  

Integrated Artistry

Showcasing interdisciplinary design, Grinnell’s Central Park honors the past, invigorates the present and anticipates the future.

The Art Studio at RDG designed, modeled and fabricated more than 250 terra cotta pieces inspired by Louis Sullivan’s “Jewel Box” bank located downtown. The studio also handcrafted six 36”-diameter Louis Sullivan urns, with a portion of the proceeds benefitting the Louis Sullivan Building Foundation.

Central Park and Grinnell downtown’s shared history drove the vision for the Central Park design. RDG's design echoes the prairie-style architecture found throughout the city and nearby railroad depot. The terra cotta pieces (in sizes 7 ½” x 15 ½”; 15 ½” x 15 ½”; and 24” x 24”) celebrate the style and intricate details of Louis Sullivan’s terra cotta work, melding with historic architecture in downtown Grinnell while offering a modern perspective.

Gold Award for Brick in Architecture
Brick Industry Association (BIA)
Best Development Award, Renovated Civic
1000 Friends of Iowa
Merit Award in Design (Built)
ASLA Iowa Chapter
Award of Merit with Distinctions
Masonry Institute of Iowa