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Placemaking Initiatives in DSM in 2023

Placemaking Forum

August 1, 2023

During the 2023 Public Policy Issue Forum on Placemaking, a panel discussed large-scale regional placemaking initiatives. The panel was led by moderator Tiffany Tauscheck with the Greater Des Moines Partnership, and consisted of the following panelists, along with me: Hannah Inman, Great Outdoors Foundation & ICON Water Trails, and Deanna Triplett, Iowa Economic Development Authority.

Capital Crossroads 3.0

The Capital Crossroads 3.0 Regional Vision Plan Steering Committee has had many conversations defining placemaking and surrounding what draws people to Greater Des Moines (DSM). For policymakers and local communities, placemaking sets the stage for positive memories and the story of our region. Each community has assets that make it a place to call home, visit, etc. Creating and growing attractions showcases what the community has to offer and helps define a place for its people.

When it comes to policy, placemaking allows for new policy and growth. One example is the ICON Water Trails. What started as an engineering study in 2017 eventually grew into leadership and community members seeing that the water trails would keep DSM vibrant and a place to live and visit. Most people saw the water trails as a recreation project, but thanks to our business leaders, it has also become an economic driver.

When communities are building something new, it’s essential that leadership welcome challenges and detours that come up. With a project no one has done before, new ideas and connections that weren’t originally part of the plan can help create the final vision. We need to be okay with the messiness along the way.

Plan for Downtown Des Moines

Downtown DSM is a destination for welcome surprises and inclusive opportunities. While Downtown is already a place for cultural activities and where people come together for new experiences, continuing investment in Downtown DSM is key for the entire region’s growth.

At its heart, the Downtown DSM Vision Plan and Action Plan reflects the importance of understanding the macro and micro ripple impacts of plans and policies to create meaningful places that reflect the values of the community. This ripple is intended to impact everything from economic vibrancy and community cohesion to public health. Read more about the Downtown DSM Vision Plan and Action Plan.

Destination Iowa

Utilizing state and federal resources for placemaking projects is essential in bringing these projects to fruition. An example of such resources is Destination Iowa, a federally funded program made possible through the American Rescue Plan. This program has successfully granted funding to 46 projects, amounting to $115 million dollars. Notably, due to its effectiveness, Destination Iowa has recently received an additional $10 million in state funding to further its mission of investing in transformative placemaking initiatives.

The next Public Policy Issue Forum will be held on Thursday, Aug. 17 at Noon. The event will focus on rural development.

Watch the entire webinar below:


The Partnership's Public Policy team engages with local, state and federal officials to create public policy that generates economic growth, business prosperity and talent development in Greater Des Moines (DSM). The Partnership is a nonpartisan organization.

Laura Kessel

Laura Kessel is a Senior Partner at RDG Planning & Design, combining 18 years of experience in urban planning and landscape architecture to create places that work from the regional scale to the human scale.