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Forward Momentum in Downtown DSM

Downtown DSM Momentum

April 27, 2023

A strong downtown district is a key to a strong region.

Downtown Des Moines (DSM) is everyone’s downtown. It is a front door to our region for many visitors and prospective residents. It is a central area of gathering for people to do business and experience world-class arts, culture, sports and recreation.

Our region is the fastest-growing major metro in the Midwest, and the growth of the DSM region as a whole has mirrored the growth of activity and amenities in Downtown DSM. We know that downtown’s continued strength is necessary for economic development activity and talent attraction and retention across the entire region.

Like so many downtown districts across the country, Downtown DSM continues to evolve in response to changes created by the pandemic. Workplaces and workdays are now more flexible. The Partnership and many partners are focused on ensuring Downtown DSM is a place workers, residents and visitors choose to spend their time. In recent months we have experienced major events and activations including March Madness, the DSM Book Festival, the Great DSM Hot Air Balloon Hunt, professional sports including the Iowa Cubs, Wolves and Wild, shows at Des Moines Performing Arts and more. In coming months Downtown DSM will host the Downtown Farmers’ Market presented by UnityPoint Health – Des Moines, Out to Lunch and an overnight stop from RAGBRAI.

Momentum Snapshot

Our data shows that this activity is creating momentum in Downtown DSM. The Partnership recently released its Downtown DSM Quarterly Report which provides a snapshot of this momentum. Some of the key findings include:

  • Downtown DSM foot traffic numbers continue to trend upward. Downtown DSM foot traffic averaged more than 83% of pre-pandemic levels from Jan. 1 – March 24, including 91% on weekend days. This is significantly higher than the national Kastle Back to Work Barometer, which is measuring at 48% of pre-pandemic levels.
  • Downtown economic development projects in January and February included OpenLoop Health and Gross-Wen Technologies, which resulted in more than $11 million in capital investment. The OpenLoop Health project resulted in the creation of 400 new in-person jobs in Downtown DSM.
  • Events and activations brought thousands of attendees to Downtown DSM.
  • Downtown DSM momentum included national recognition garnered by the March Madness tournament and Seton O’Connor from the “Dan Patrick Show,” who said “These are my people. This is my town. I believe I found home. Phenomenal city. Absolutely incredible.”

We must continue to focus on “what’s next” for downtown. The Downtown DSM: Future Forward Vision Plan and Action Plan was recently approved unanimously by the Des Moines City Council as part of the city’s master plan. This comprehensive, wide-ranging visionary plan will have a significant impact on shaping Downtown DSM’s future. We are currently putting together implementation teams to work on specific elements of the plan. Additionally, work continues on major projects including the Pro Iowa Soccer Stadium and Global Plaza and Iowa Confluence (ICON) Water Trails.

There are also some steps you can take in the immediate term. As you can see in the Downtown DSM Quarterly Report, The Partnership’s communications and marketing efforts led to more than 11 million impressions of the #downtownDSM hashtag in the first quarter, and 111 media mentions. You can amplify this messaging by telling Downtown DSM’s story.

We encourage you to choose to work downtown if you have the opportunity. Bring friends and family downtown to experience its amenities and support local. And share your positive experiences with your networks both in-person and on social media.

The Greater Des Moines Partnership Board is made up of Greater Des Moines (DSM) leaders and industry experts. The Board is united in driving economic growth with one voice, one mission and as one region.

Mike McCoy

Mike McCoy is the CEO of NCMIC and serves as the 2023 Greater Des Moines Partnership Board Chair.