Helper City, Utah Receives Award for Living Up to Its Name


Community honored for revitalizing its downtown and local economy through grassroots initiative with architects

AIA Press Release

WASHINGTON – Oct. 4, 2018 – The community of Helper City, Utah and the American Institute of Architects (AIA) are being honored with Facilitation Impact Awards for revitalizing the city’s downtown through a unique grassroots-led plan designed with architects.

“Helper City’s story provides an important reminder of the power of grassroots city-building efforts,” said Joel Mills, Senior Director of the AIA’s Center for Communities by Design. “The entire community has participated in Helper City’s revitalization. We hope its story can inspire other communities facing similar challenges to engage their citizens directly in city-building efforts.”

In September 2017, Helper City hosted an AIA Sustainable Design Assessment Team (SDAT) to build a community-driven strategy for its downtown. Along with the SDAT architects, more than 200 residents participated in the process. In the first year of implementation efforts, the town of 2,000 mobilized dozens of volunteers in a grassroots effort that directly involved citizens in a series of hands-on projects. Activities have included redesigning public parks and other public spaces along Main Street, creating pop-up businesses in retail stores, restoring the riverfront as well as other initiatives. The impact has been transformational, stimulating private investment and momentum for positive change. Helper City’s progress in one year of implementation is substantial, but additional work in addressing community needs remains.

The efforts are being honored by the International Association of Facilitators (IAF) with its Facilitation Impact Awards, which honors organizations that have used facilitation to achieve a measurable and positive impact.

“The plan created from the SDAT event is driving continuous improvement in Helper City,” said Helper City Mayor Lenis Peterman. “By giving voice to the community, we have also given it hope in creating a sustainable environment, which is respectful of our past, values our environmental assets and maximizes the opportunity for community engagement.”

The AIA’s SDAT program is a public service that works with localities around the country to create community-driven action plans that help them achieve public aspirations for the future. Complete details of the program are available online.

The SDAT program is currently accepting applications for 2019 charrettes. More information about the application process can be found on

About AIA

Founded in 1857, AIA consistently works to create more valuable, healthy, secure, and sustainable buildings, neighborhoods, and communities. Through more than 200 international, state and local chapters, AIA advocates for public policies that promote economic vitality and public wellbeing.

AIA provides members with tools and resources to assist them in their careers and business as well as engaging civic and government leaders and the public to find solutions to pressing issues facing our communities, institutions, nation, and world. Members adhere to a code of ethics and conduct to ensure the highest professional standards.

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