Des Moines is the Capital of Iowa by Garrett Cornelison

Urban design is a key to making places that are successful both socially and economically, good to live in, and attractive to visit. Urban design is essential in creating community identity. It is effective planning in the widest sense, and it can help to deliver better public services. It also helps to achieve value for money in new developments, and to make good use of scarce resources. I recently took a trip back to my hometown Des Moines, Iowa, and I must tell you I was truly impressed and inspired by what is happening there. When I left Des Moines in 2004 there really wasn't much, but I could see it's potential. I would take photos of the buildings and superimpose photos over the top to create my dream interior design boutique. I would change the facades, the windows, the colors, the landscapes. I had a dream and I had a vision, but I would get discouraged though during my interior design critiques at college. I would be docked points because "my designs didn't fit in Des Moines;" I wanted the amenities of a big city. I wanted live/work lofts. I wanted more cultural events. I wanted a sense of community. I wanted to modernize the city. I saw it's beauty and it's potential. But rather than waiting for it to happen or do anything about it, I went out and found what I wanted in Venice, California. Why didn't I stay and find a way for my voice to be heard and my vision to be created? I don't know. Would I enjoy being part of the Des Moines community now? Yes.

Here are the TOP 8 things that have contributed to the urban growth in Des Moines, Iowa...

1.  CONNECT

Center Street Bridge

Principal Riverwalk: This project was presented to Des Moines as a gift in 2004 in honor of Principal Financial Group’s 125th anniversary. This project connects the East and West side of Downtown via two new pedestrian bridges. The Meredith Trail connects downtown to Gray’s Lake as well as over 300 miles of trails throughout Iowa. This project was completed in 2011 and includes a landscaped promenade path connecting the riverfront amphitheater and plazas to the Brenton Skating Rink and summertime fountain.

2. TRANSPORTATION

Benefits of a Bicycle

Downtown Des Moines Free Trolley D-Line

B-Cycle:  When the weather is nice you can take advantage of the bicycle sharing system and get around with ease. There when you want it and gone when you don't. 

D-Line Shuttle: This new, old-time trolley is the best way to get around downtown. And the best part...it's free! Expect a shuttle every 10 minutes and you'll be on your way to work, eat, and play!

Public and community transportation is very crucial in finding the solution to our nation's economic, energy, and environmental challenges. These two things are a great start to this solution and Des Moines is not stopping there. Look for even more transit improvement in the upcoming years with the Walnut Street Transformation.

3. DEVELOPMENT + HISTORIC RESTORATION

Downtown Des Moines Historic Preservation

Hatch Development East Village Square Downtown Des Moines 

Strategic development in downtown Des Moines has provided the community with large economic growth.  Renovation of historic buildings has created new life, excitement, and expansion of these urban neighborhoods. Hatch Development Group has played a crucial role in the ever expanding growth and change. Since focusing on housing development, Senator Hatch has become a forceful proponent of blending historical rehabilitation with new construction to revitalize inner city neighborhoods. Prime retail, restaurant, and office space has been created through the restoration of the Historic Chamberlain Building (top image). While the East Village Square (bottom image) on the opposite side of downtown has provided the city with 115 mixed-income residences for modern living. There's so much happening everyday and you can follow all the latest in developments right here at Absolute DSM.

4. ART

Yoshitomo Ghost Sculpture Pappajohn Sculpture Park Des Moines

PappaJohn Sculpture Park: This incredible Sculpture Garden, featuring 24 sculptures by 21 artists, has been given as a gift to Des Moines by art collectors John and Mary PappaJohn to beautify Des Moines’ Downtown. Each of the sculptures in this garden are works from world-renowned sculptors, “the best of the best." This donation is likely to put Iowa on the map for having one of the best sculpture gardens in the world! 

5. CONNECTING LEADERS

Thinc Iowa Convention Downtown Des Moines   

Thinc Iowa: Last October this conference brought together the innovative entreprenuers of today and some key powerhouse players to inspire, collaborate, and generate during this 3-day conference. The goal is to motivate people to explore new ways of doing business, challenge them to think differently, and give them a place to network outside their normal circle. Ben Silbermann, founder of Pinterest and a native Iowan, was one of the top talents to share his story.

The Des Moines Social Club: a non-profit organization, uses the arts as a catalyst to create unprecedented community engagement. Their vision is to build premier art institutions that foster social change and revitalize cities throughout the world.

7. RETAIL DEVELOPMENT:

Eden Iowa Retail Boutique

Chamberlain Building Graphic Design Modern Pizza Shop Flour

Many amazing bars, restaurants, and retail establishments have opened their doors in downtown in the past 8 years. The growth of the community is dependent upon this retail development. Young entrepreneurs have been able to follow their dreams and open business that are thriving and expanding. A city that once had a challenge keeping college grads in the state has developed into a place that cannot only keep them, but also get the ones that left to return and new ones to join.  

8. DESIGN + BRANDING:

87 Central Website Design Flour Pizza Shop

 87 Central Branding Photography and Design Proof Restaurant

Design is everywhere and many people don't even realize the impact it has on them. But the ones that do know how to do it right. The talented team at 87 Central has played a huge role in the resurgence of the creative community in Des Moines. They've helped develop their clients' ideas into a visual medium that is attractive to many. They are really on the cutting edge of design and have helped many small business move forward, get noticed, and look beautiful through the use of graphics, logos, website, print, and photography. This plays a huge role in creating a desirable urban community that is on pace with the modern world.

Images: IDIWAP, Principal Center Street Bridge, Des Moines Commuter, D-Line Trolley, Hatch Development, Pappajohn Sculpture Park, Thinc Iowa, Eden, Eight Seven Central