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Johnston's Gateway District Becoming Magical Mile of Entertainment + Recreational Amenities

Magical Mile

February 24, 2022

Over the past decade, the Johnston City Council has carefully crafted and invested in a vision for revitalizing the 123-acre area just north of I-80/35 along Merle Hay Road, known as Johnston’s Gateway District.

Gateway District

Over time the vision for the Gateway District has expanded into something that will be an entertainment and recreational opportunity for Greater Des Moines (DSM). Mayor Paula Dierenfeld recently coined the stretch as the ‘magical mile’ — the Gateway District north to the Johnston Town Center.

On February 22, 2022 the Johnston City Council approved the site plan for the expansive Ignit Sports and Recreation complex on the west side of Merle Hay Road and the development agreement for Bombers Golf and Hotel on the east side of Merle Hay Road.

Ignit Sports and Fitness

The Ignit facility includes a 208,000 square-foot indoor recreation complex with a competitive track, full-size indoor soccer field, eight multi-purpose courts, conference space, an outdoor plaza and a host of other amenities and outdoor fields, such as a cricket field. Over the past year, the Ignit master plan has expanded to include an entertainment district similar to McGregor Square in Denver. A plaza is expected to contain an 18,000 sq. ft. multi-tenant commercial building with a large outdoor viewing area for sports and other events. Its anticipated economic impact has adjacent property owners discussing concept plans for a coffee shop, restaurant and additional multi-story commercial building. The former Dragon Carwash east of Ignit is slated for demolition this spring, with a brewery or restaurant planned immediately south of Ignit.

Ignit Site Plan

Image: Ignit site plan approved by the Johnston City Council on February 22nd

Bonbers Golf + Hotel Development

While the west side of the Gateway District is taking shape, across the street, the Bombers Golf development includes an 80+ room hotel and attached golf entertainment facility, which utilizes industry-leading technoloy and facility management by Troon, who operates similar facilities across the Midwest. The project developer, Stoye & Kann Development LLC, is taking a key piece of vacant property and integrating an entertainment venue and hotel, with a kayak launch, which will offer visitors the ability to launch into Beaver Creek from the city’s third kayak launch. Visitors can also take advantage of the adjacent trail and new park that will be located near Ignit. The project opens up opportunities for three commercial lots, slated for a complementary restaurant, retail and office development by the group. These opportunities certainly align with what elected officials have heard from residents over the years from our community survey — the need for more restaurants and retail to stay and shop local.

Bombers Site PlanImage: Bombers Golf Site plan concept

Other Magical Mile Amenities

Together, these two recreation-based projects will serve as major points of attraction for Johnston’s Gateway District. Also, along the magical mile, land has been changing hands, with both LifeServe acquiring 6+ acres from Denny Elwell Company and Platinum DSM buying 4+ acres of commercial land along Johnston Drive. DSM Property Services and its related companies, Platinum Development Company and CDM Real Estate Services provide a broad array of property and real estate services. DSM Property Services outdoor division provides lawn care, irrigation, landscapingand snow removal for commercial and residential customers. Their construction division handles commercial construction, repairs and other tenant-requested improvements, concrete installation, tear out and repair. Platinum Development Company develops land and builds custom homes for a variety of residential clients.

DSM Property Services intends to build a 20,000 square-foot headquarters along Johnston Drive, directly west of the bike path. They’re seeking a brewery or restaurant for a second standalone building to attract bicyclists, kayakers and tournament teams playing at the Ignit complex.DSM Property Services Site

Image: DSM Property Services Site Concept

With the development projects underway, roadway improvements and amenities will soon begin to ensure the safety of motorists traveling to and from the area. These improvements are expected to get underway in 2022-2023 and include the Merle Hay Road and Johnston Drive interchange and the extension of Johnston Drive to the west.

We are also proud to announce that Johnston is expected to open their first dog park in the summer of 2022. The dog park is located to the south of Ray Schleihs Park. The land was donated by Woda Cooper, who is currently constructing two residential projects in the Gateway District. Interurban trail users will soon be able to once again enjoy the connectivity from Johnston to Des Moines with the Trestle to Trestle bridge. Construction has begun on the new bridge, including LED underlighting and a viewing platform over Beaver Creek. Completion of the bridge is expected in the fall of 2022.Trestle to Trestle

Image: Beaver Creek Trestle Bridge Render

These projects combined bring a promise of an exceptionally busy 2022-2023 construction season in the Gateway District and a rejuvenation of the area into a premier recreation and entertainment district for metro residents and visitors alike. City leaders are excited about the opportunities to revitalize the magical mile into a place everyone can enjoy.

Greater Des Moines (DSM) has one of the best business climates in the country. The region is nationally recognized for having a talented and educated workforce, a cost of doing business 13% below the national average, a low cost of living and an exceptional quality of life.

City of Johnston

Johnston is a thriving community located just north of Des Moines with a population of 24,064 and growing. In the recent community survey, 86% percent of residents say they are satisfied or very satisfied with the quality of life here, which is well above the national average in quality-of-life rankings. The survey shows our city departments, including police, fire, library, parks, public works and community development, consistently rank among the best in the country.