Adel’s Courthouse Square District (ACSD) is comprised of buildings dating from 1868 through the mid-twentieth century. These architecturally and historically significant buildings, along with the brick streets, contribute to the unique ambiance of Adel. To preserve the historical significance and retain and promote a retail presence on the square, the City of Adel and Adel’s Historic Preservation Commission has committed funds from Tax Increment Financing (TIF) for qualifying interior and exterior renovation and new construction within the ACSD area.
The Historic Preservation Grant Program (HPGP) has been developed to provide monetary incentives to businesses and property owners to preserve the historical attributes and functionality as long as the enhancements do not detract from the historical significance of the building. Any improvements must comply with the design guidelines adopted for the ACSD and all applicable building codes. The City appropriates limited funds from Tax Increment Financing (TIF) to support this program.
An applicant may receive grant assistance of 50% of the project costs, up to a maximum of $5,000.00 for interior capital improvements and renovations of existing structures. The improvements must comply with the Design Guidelines for the ACSD and meet American’s with Disabilities Act guidelines if the renovation threshold meets said requirements. No funds will be authorized for in-kind labor.
An applicant may receive grant assistance of 100% of the project costs, up to a maximum of $10,000.00 for exterior improvements on both old and new structures. The improvements must comply with the Design Guidelines for the ACSD. No funds will be authorized for in-kind labor.
Application forms are available at City Hall, or may be downloaded here. Please go to the grant application page to submit your application online. Prior to beginning the application process, perspective applicants must meet with the City Administrator to discuss the project and determine if it is eligible to proceed. The completed application form must be submitted to the City Administrator, who will forward it once complete to the five (5) member Adel Historic Preservation Commission (AHPC) along with any comments for consideration.
For interior and exterior improvements, the application shall be accompanied by support materials, which include, but are not limited to the following: design and scope of work; architectural drawings of proposed alteration; site plan and building elevation drawn to scale if required; current photographs of the building; historic photographs of the building; product specifications including colors and materials to be used; projected cost estimates and any other information requested by the City, its staff or boards and commissions.
The AHPC will review the application and supplemental material at a regularly scheduled and properly noticed meeting. The AHPC will make a recommendation to the City’s Economic Development Committee (EDC) I City Council. The AHPC shall either recommend that the application be approved as submitted, denied, or approved with conditions. Recommendation of the project requires affirmative vote of at least three (3) members of the AHPC. Any person affected by the decision may file a written appeal to the City Council within 15 days after the date the AHPC’s findings are published.
The City Council makes the final decision regarding what monetary assistance may be provided based on the overall project, recommendation from the AHPC and EDC and available funds. All projects must obtain building permits if applicable and all work must conform to applicable building codes.
( 1) The purpose of the Adel Courthouse Square Historic District (ACSD) design
standards is to guide the design of building construction, development, alteration,
and renovation in the Adel Courthouse Square Historic District (“District”) to
ensure that, through appropriate use of facades, windows, building orientation,
and architectural details; new structures, existing structures, and alterations to
existing structures are physically and visually compatible with other buildings
within the District and most importantly retain the historical significance and
architecture of the buildings. Many buildings in the District reflect architectural
styles that were popular during the late nineteenth century and early to midtwentieth
century. It is the desire of the City to have buildings conform to
architectural styles of this era, similar complimentary styles, or the German, and I
or eastern European architectural styles of that era.
(2) These standards are intended to encourage good quality design in new building
construction, enhance street safety, and provide a comfortable street environment
by providing features of interest to pedestrians. Good design results in buildings
that are in visual harmony with nearby buildings, leading to a District that is
attractive, safe, and vibrant and preserves its historical significance. These
qualities, in tum, contribute to the creation of a District core which facilitates easy
pedestrian movement and establishment of a rich mixture of uses. In addition to
these standards, the provisions of this Code contain mandatory guidelines on
supplementary design features such as signage, lighting, color, windows, etc.
(3) Design guidelines have been upheld by the courts as an exercise of the power of
cities to regulate for the general welfare and are considered a form of zoning.
Many cities have ordinances requiring design review in conjunction with their
design guidelines. Such mandatory design review has many legal requirements
that exceed the resources of a small community. As such, Adel has chosen to use
a voluntary design review process and seeks to obtain conformity through
encouragement and grant incentives. If an applicant chooses to participate in the
financial incentives program, then guidelines contained herein must be adhered to.
(b) Preservation Goals. The City of Adel has identified the following goals of historic
preservation and District design guidelines (Chapter 25 Code of Ordinances, Adel, Iowa):
(1) Promote the educational, cultural, economic and general welfare of the public
through the recognition, enhancement, and perpetuation of districts and sites of
historical and cultural significances;
(2) Safeguard the City’s historic, aesthetic and cultural heritage by preserving
districts and sites of historical architectural and cultural significance;
(3) Stabilize and improve property values;
(4) Foster pride in the legacy of beauty and achievements of the past;
(5) Protect and enhance the attractiveness of the City to tourists and visitors and the
support and stimulus to businesses thereby provided;
(6) Strengthen the economy of the City;
(7) Promote the use of districts and sites of historical and cultural significance as sites
for the education, pleasure and welfare of the citizens; and
(8) Preserve the features that define the individuality of the building.
(c) Voluntary Review Procedures. The applicant shall submit the following items for
design review, unless directed otherwise:
( l) Elevations. Complete exterior elevations of all proposed I existing buildings or
additions. Elevations should be drawn at an appropriate scale (usually W’= 1 ‘) and
a. All signs and I or awnings to be mounted on the building(s).
b. Designation of materials and colors to be used on all exterior facades.
c. Elevations of adjacent buildings to compare height and scale.
(2) Materials Sample. Material samples shall be presented, including color and
material type of walls and roof.
(3) Color Samples. Exact sample matches of all principal and secondary exterior
colors to be used, including signage and I or awning(s).
( 4) Context. Photographs of surrounding building on the same street or area to
address issues of context, including any models, if available.
( d) Design Guidelines.
(1) Pedestrian Accessibility. Special attention shall be given to designing a primary
building entrance which is both attractive and functional, and preserves the
historical integrity of the building. Building entrances must be architecturally
emphasized and visible from the street.
(2) Compatibility with Existing Downtown Businesses.
a. The size and shape of proposed construction, alteration, or renovation
shall be comparable with the size and shape of nearby historical buildings
and preserve the architectural style of your building.
b. Historical buildings in the district feature architectural details, such as
decorative brickwork, awnings, windows, and other facades that are
encouraged to be adapted to new buildings and maintained in historical
buildings. (Figures 1.0 and 1.1)
c. Where building sizes are not comparable, larger building facades shall be
broken down into units that resemble the size of existing building facades.
(3) Building Materials.
a. Exterior building materials shall convey an impression of history and
durability. Materials such as masonry, stone, stucco, and wood are
encouraged in keeping with the architectural styles of the late nineteenth
century and early to mid-twentieth century and are encouraged to be
b. Where masonry is used for exterior finish, decorative patterns must be
incorporated. Examples of these decorative patterns include multicolored
masonry units such as brick, stone, or cast stone, in layered or geometric
patterns, or split-faced concrete block to simulate a rusticated stone-type
construction. (Figures 1.2 and 1.3)
c. Metal is not allowed as the primary exterior building material, but may be
used for accents.
d. Wood siding must be bevel, shingle siding, or channel siding and must not
be applied in a diagonal or herringbone pattern.
(4) Building Facades.
a. All building facades should have a sense of symmetry and balance on the
building and parallel unity within the district based on the original
historical architectural style.
b. Building alterations and renovations should maintain the original facade
pattern with the use of original or similar materials to preserve the
architectural style(s) in the district.
c. Construction and maintenance of ornamental devices, such as molding,
entablature, and friezes, are encouraged at the roofline. (Figures 1.4 and
d. Buildings should incorporate and maintain features such as arcades, roofs,
alcoves, porticoes, and awnings to preserve architectural facade and
protect pedestrians from weather elements. (Figures 1.6 and 1. 7)
e. Store front facades elements include:
i. Clearly delineated upper and lower level facades. (Figure 1.8)
ii. A lower level facade dominated by display windows and a clearly
defined entry or entries. (Figure 1.9)
ii. Smaller, regularly spaced windows in the upper level. (Figure 2.0)
f. Rear facade should be maintained and I or constructed to support the
overall appearance of the principal structure.
g. Maintain cornices and preserve original materials (figure 1.1)
a. The purpose of adopting color requirements is to reinforce the existing,
historical character and maintain a visually appealing central business
b. Colors for exterior building finishes shall be earth tones, brick tones,
creams, pastels of earth tones, or dark I muted green, blues, and reds.
c. No more than two (2) principal colors shall be used on a building.
d. Bright, white, black, or primary colors shall be used only as accents,
occupying a maximum of ten (10) percent of a building. No more than two
(2) accent colors shall be used on a building.
(6) Roof Materials, Parapets, and Roof Pitch.
a. Pitched roof structures shall have a minimum roof pitch of 6: 12.
b. Flat roofs are permitted with detailed stepped parapets or detailed brick
coursing. (Figure 2. 1)
c. Parapet comers must be stepped or the parapet must be designed to
emphasize the center or primary entrance(s) of the building.
d. Visible sloped roofs must be a “non-color,” such as gray, black, or brown.
e. Roof shape, color, and texture shall be coordinated with the building’s
perimeter walls and adjacent buildings and roof lines.
f. Visible roof materials must be wood or architectural grade composition
shingle, slate, tile, or sheet metal with standing or batten seam. Copper
roofing may be considered appropriate for some building accents.
g. All roof and wall-mounted mechanical, electrical, communications, and
service equipment, including satellite dishes and vent pipes, must be
screened from public view by parapets, walls, or by other approved means.
(7) Windows and Doors.
a. Windows which allow views to the interior activity or display areas are
b. Glass curtain walls, reflective glass, and painted or darkly tinted glass
shall not be used.
c. No windows in the district shall be boarded up, covered with paper, or any
other way covered or designed to restrict view into the interior of the
building, with the exception of approved window lettering.
d. Ground Floor Windows:
L All new buildings in the district must provide ground floor
1i. Any wall that faces the street in the district must contain at least
20% of the ground floor wall area in display areas, windows, or
doorways. Blank walls are prohibited.
e. Upper Floor Windows:
i. Glass area dimensions shall not exceed 5′ x 7′.
ii. Windows must have trim or molding.
f. First floor door entries were generally recessed as part of the three bay
concept. These repetitive recessed entries are part of the rhythm of the
street as pedestrians walk along.
g. Maintain the historic size and shape of the original doors, and attempt to
use original door materials whenever possible.
h. Maintain recessed entries where appropriate and bulkheads and kick
a. All building entrances and exits must be well lighted.
b. Exterior lighting must be an integral part of the architectural design,
complement the existing ornamental street lighting, and be in keeping with
the overall architectural character of the historical building and district.
c. The minimum lighting level for building entries is four foot-candles.
Lighting must be a pedestrian scale and the source light must be shielded
to reduce glare.
d. Unapproved lighting sources shall include, but not limited to, mercury
vapor, unshielded fluorescent, neon, or tube gas lighting.
e. For buildings with lighted signs that contribute to the exterior lighting of
the building and I or district, the entire sign must be operational and all
bulbs must be fully functional at all times.
f. Exterior lighting sources that flash, flicker, blink, or produce any other
similar affect are prohibited.
a. Signs should be architecturally compatible with the style, composition,
materials, colors and details of the building.
c. Hand-written signs are prohibited within the district.
d. Temporary computer generated signs on standard I legal paper detailing
community events are permitted for a limited time of two (2) weeks prior
and two (2) days following the event.
e. Temporary computer generated signs on standard I legal paper detailing
sales, specials, or any other advertisement are permitted for no longer than
two (2) weeks.
f. Permanent signage must reference the bonafide business operating in the
building in which the sign is placed and shall not be used to advertise for
an off-site business or location.
g. Temporary signage must include the name of the bonafide business for
which the sign is advertising.
h. Temporary signs may be placed on the inside window, door, or doorway
of the building. Temporary signs may not be placed on the awning, brick,
wall, or any other exterior feature of the building.
i. Detached signs, sandwich board signs, and other moveable signs may be
placed within the public right-of-way, but must not block free movement
j. All other signage must be approved by the Code of the City of Adel.
( 10) Sidewalk Displays and Streetscape.
a. Sidewalk displays may only be utilized in accord with the C 1 Commercial
District Zoning Code.
b. Benches, outdoor seating, and trash receptacles must be in keeping with
the overall character of the building and district. (Figures 2.2 and 2.3)
c. Benches and other streetscape items may be placed within the public rightof-
way, but must not block free movement of pedestrians, and prior
approval must be granted by the Zoning Administrator.
(11) Waste and Storage.
a. All exterior waste disposal and storage areas shall be placed in the rear of
the building and screened from public view through the use of an
enclosure or structure or approved visible barrier.
b. Additional measures shall be taken to prevent debris from disbursing from
the affected property.
a. Awnings may be used if there is historic evidence of their use on the
b. Awnings shall not be installed where they would conceal design features
of the building.
c. Awnings should be sized and shaped to fit the storefront.
d. Awnings shall be of canvas or other woven material. Aluminum or metal
are not appropriate except where original to the building.
e. The color of the awning should compliment the building colors and be
compatible with the historic period of the building.
f. The bottom most point of the awning must be at least eight feet above the
ground and shall extend no further from the building than within two feet
of the inside of the curb.
g. Advertising on the awning border must be hi storically appropriate.
(f) Variance From Standards. The City Council may vary these design standards if it is
determined that the proposed project is not detrimental to the public welfare or intent of
these regulations. Where necessary to accommodate individuality and creativity in site
design, or where conformance with the strict requirements of these design standards is
not feasible on a particular property, the City Council may modify the requirements of
these standards in reviewing and approving the site plan, provided that the physical
improvements and features that the applicant proposes to install on the site are equivalent
in effectiveness to the requirements of these design standards.
(g) Enforcement and Remedies.
( 1) Any violation or attempted violation of the design standards or of any other
condition or requirement adopted pursuant thereto may be restrained, corrected, or
abated, as the case may be, by injunction or other appropriate proceeding. A
violation of the design standards shall be considered a violation of the zoning
ordinance of the City. The remedies of the City shall include the following:
a. Issuing a stop-work order for any and all work on the building.
b. Seeking an injunction or other order of restraint or abatement that requires
the removal or correction of the nonconformity.
c. Imposing any penalties that can be imposed directly by the City under the
d. Seeking in court the imposition of any penalties that can be imposed by
such court under the zoning ordinance.
e. In case of any development or construction that imposes an immediate
danger to the public health or safety, taking such measures as are available
to the City under the applicable provisions of the zoning ordinance and the
building code for such circumstances.
(2) The City shall have such other remedies as are and as may from time to time be
provided for or allowed by state law for violation of the zoning ordinance.