A- A+

Public Policy Issue Forum on Community Placemaking

Community Placemaking Forum

June 23, 2021

Along with Capital Crossroads and the Young Professionals Connection (YPC), the Greater Des Moines Partnership hosted a virtual Public Policy Issue Forum on Community Placemaking on Tuesday, June 15, 2021. I had the honor of moderating this discussion with Sally Dix (Bravo Greater Des Moines), Tom Hadden (City of West Des Moines) and Rachael Kinnick (Grinnell Chamber of Commerce). During the event, we explored how communities are inspiring new connections among residents by reimagining public spaces.

Placemaking Evolution Over Time

Those community connections are driven by developing projects that are responsive to their surroundings and take a people-centered approach. The panelists highlighted the importance of genuine community engagement in developing placemaking projects. Dix said that placemaking projects often evolve thanks to this community input. The group also identified balancing form and function as critical to a successful placemaking project; if something is only efficient, it may not meet all the needs of the community. Kinnick said placemaking historically has happened through developers and economic development leaders. Today, community members can drive placemaking outcomes. This shift has allowed more engagement within communities and resulted in more robust and enduring projects.

Policies + Tools for Placemaking

People want to live in vibrant places with unique features. In economic development, Kinnick said it’s cruicial to pursue public-private partnerships to move projects forward. Hadden explained that elected officials within the community must be part of developing and that leaders must understand what the community needs and desires. The appetite for community placemaking high, but Dix pointed out that, when considering economic development, leaders should also consider whether projects may displace the community they are intended to serve. She also highlighted that we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to achieve our community's placemaking objectives through the American Rescue Plan.

Projects in the Works

Hadden discussed new projects in West Des Moines, including the Rec Plex on south Grand Avenue. The facility will have two sheets of ice, 100,000 feet of turf and four basketball and eight volleyball courts, to name a few of the offerings. The Rec Plex is expected to draw regional tournaments and recreational sports, creating a community space that helps shape the area.Dix highlighted Bravo's partnership with Invest DSM and DART, while Kinnick mentioned the community placemaking project she is most excited about is the revitalization of the Grinnell Veterans Memorial Building.

It is evident that community placemaking has wide-ranging potential in Greater Des Moines (DSM) and beyond. As projects are developed, it is imperative that they are of the community, which can be accomplished through authentic engagement, and that equity gaps are considered. To hear more from our panelists on these topics, check out the entire webinar below:


Read more about the Public Policy Issue Forum on Broadband and the Public Policy Issue Forum on Child Care. Future forums include the following:

  • Public Policy Forum on Affordable Housing on Tuesday, August 17
  • Public Policy Forum on Justice Reform on Tuesday, October 19
  • Public Policy Forum on Inclusive Economic Development on Tuesday, December 14

Find these events and more here.

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.

Bethany Wilcoxon

Bethany Wilcoxon leads McClure's community development team, developing and guiding cross-discipline planning opportunities that enhance the quality of life in Upper Midwest communities. She previously led the development of The Tomorrow Plan and served as director of Capital Crossroads. Bethany and her husband live in Des Moines.