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A Downtown Des Moines Resident on What It’s Like Living in Downtown Des Moines

Living in Downtown Des Moines

September 8, 2023

I began working with A. Arthur Davis at the Davis, Hockenberg, Wine, Brown, Koehn & Shors law firm in Downtown Des Moines (DSM) in June of 1981, before the skywalk system was developed, and maintain relationships today with those friends and colleagues at the firm.

Fast forward three decades, I now live in Downtown Des Moines, having moved here in the spring of 2015 and love it more than I thought I might! In fact, my building is the former headquarters of LOOK Magazine; I learned a few months later that my mother worked here in the 1950s! The year-long search for my downtown home brought moments of discovery and reflection of what I’d hope my next journey ahead would bring: connection and vitality in community. Mark my words ؅— I’m never moving.

Downtown Des Moines Buildings

I love being able to do business locally and particularly in my downtown neighborhood. Shown below is a roster of activities that I enjoy on a somewhat regular basis:

  1. Bicycling on nearby trails to Gray’s Lake Park via the BCycle program with easy-touse rental stations located through Downtown Des Moines; there’s an app for the program as well.
  2. A long-time enthusiastic fan of the Des Moines Farmers’ Market on Saturday mornings from 7 a.m. – Noon (May – September); and, from 8 a.m. – Noon (October)!
  3. My grandson and I find that time flies when we visit the Des Moines Central Public Library — such a beautiful building with so much to offer. We always find our way over to the Lauridsen Skate Park to watch talent of all ages!
  4. Visit Mainframe Studios for a variety of art experiences — beautiful blown glass, jewelry, painting, photography, sculpture, stationery, clothing and more! I often find myself there on their “First Friday of the Month” events, or, at any moment, I feel inspired to discover something new. Several artists there have contributed their inspirations to my office headquarters just west of downtown, as well as my home.
  5. The BEST restaurants around! I frequent Proudfoot & Bird, Hobnob Coffee & Wine Bar and In Confidence Speakeasy which are all located within the beautifully restored Hotel Fort Des Moines, along with other downtown restaurants like Django, Americana, Centro, Bubba, Fresko, Malo, Akebono, Alba, The Purveyor and Lucca! The teams that all work so hard to serve up such great cuisine are, truly, my extended family.
  6. West End Architectural Salvage — I love to explore four floors of vintage finds and enjoy the coffee shop there, too! The folks there are so helpful and often have the history of where many of the pieces originated; they also arrange events there! It’s well worth the exploration.
  7. Take the (free) D-Line bus into and from the Historic East Village for shopping/dining/ spa and exploration experiences: West Elm, Open Sesame, Scenic Route Bakery, Clyde’s Fine Diner, East Village Spa and Storyhouse Bookpub, for starters. The D-Line runs a continuous loop from Downtown Des Moines on Locust Street to the East Village/State Capitol, then returning from via Grand Avenue.
  8. Visit Iowa’s State Capitol and spend time in the beautiful West Capitol Terrace Park — full of history, beauty and oftentimes cultural events such as the Des Moines Symphony Pops Concert around the July 4th holiday.

I truly appreciate Iowa history and am happily surrounded with compelling elements of it in Downtown Des Moines. To ensure I’m able to capture it all, I joined the Des Moines Historical Society to experience many of the learnings and tours provided by them.

I serve on the board of the Des Moines Downtown Neighborhood Association (DNA) and through their various sessions and events, I’m fulfilled by the culture of community connection here.

Lastly, when my calendar allows and the weather is perfect, I venture out on my restored vintage ice cream bicycle and give away free popsicles and ice cream treats (for humans & dogs). It’s a fond memory of childhood and what better way to create connection in my community!

Ice Cream Bicycle

Downtown Des Moines (DSM) is a growing, vibrant community that offers the energy, sophistication, housing and attractions of a burgeoning city with a brilliant future. It’s also easy to visit with plentiful and affordable street and ramp parking options.

Deb Madison-Levi

Deb Madison-Levi is Chief of Staff and Director of Administration at the Iowa Credit Union League. She has served on the boards for the Des Moines Downtown Neighborhood Association (DNA), Simpson College Alumni and the Child & Family Policy Center.