The 2014 Grow Smart

Small Community Award:

Heartwood Center


Smart Growth describes many characteristics of vibrant communities… a mix of land uses, walkable neighborhoods, parks and open space, transportation and housing choices, green building - just to name a few.

One of the best ways to learn about smart growth is to see it in action, in our communities. It’s also important to come together to celebrate what makes our communities successful.
For these reasons Idaho Smart Growth launched the Grow Smart Awards program in 2005. The program recognizes the exemplary application of smart growth principles in projects nominated from around the state of Idaho. A volunteer jury of experts and professionals deliberates and makes awards within ten categories.

When Mark and Susie Kubiak decided to purchase the historic 1908 St Joseph Catholic Church in Sandpoint, Idaho, they were faced with the difficult task of deciding how to adapt the very distinct layout and space of a church into another use. The layout made residential reuse impossible, and the coupe felt that downtown Sandpoint would not be well served by the addition of another commercial building. Their goal was “to save the building from demolition, to save the trees, and save the feeling and history of this community building for the future residents of Sandpoint.” To that end, it eventually became apparent that the best use for the old church would be to maintain it as an assembly space for Sandpoint. And thus the Heartwood Center was born.

In renovating the building, great care was given to maintaining its historical aesthetic. The image of the original chapel interior and exterior was maintained, and a new entry lobby was built to reflect the original architecture. The final plan also preserved all the large trees and open space that surrounds the building while implementing new landscaping features - such as a storm-water management system - to make the building more energy efficient and environmentally friendly. Jeremy Grimm is the planning and community development director of the city of Sandpoint, and a member of the awards jury. He recused himself from the deliberation but later said, “The resulting remodel of the facility provides a stunning example which leaves both visitors and passersby breathless, and in awe of the transformation of both the natural space and physical structure.” Other jury members noted that this is a project that makes no conventional economic sense, yet creates great value for the community.

Today, the Heartwood Center serves as a community gathering place, just as it did for the 100-plus years prior to its renovation. The center routinely hosts theatrical groups and business seminars, and is the premier space for Sandpoint weddings and holiday parties. Additionally, it location on the city’s main east-to-west bicycle route and its proximity to Sandpoint’s main commercial street is a major boost to the level of activity in the neighborhood, making it a more walkable and bikeable space that encourages community involvement.

Taken from 2014 Grow Smart Awards Ceremony in Boise Idaho


Idaho Smart Growth is a statewide nonprofit organization whose mission is to bring people together to create great places to live. Smart growth is a way of looking at community design that makes sense economically, environmentally, and socially. It aims to increase property values, conserve land and resources, provide more housing and transportation choices, promotes active living and foster a strong sense of community.

For more information see Heartwood Center

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