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Downtown DSM: Future Forward Vision Plan And Action Plan Adopted By City Of Des Moines As Part Of City’s Comprehensive Plan, Moves Into Implementation

February 7, 2023

GREATER DES MOINES, IA (Feb. 7, 2023) – The Greater Des Moines Partnership has released the final Downtown DSM: Future Forward Vision Plan and Action Plan. The plan was approved unanimously by the Des Moines City Council as part of its comprehensive plan during the Feb. 6 City Council meeting. It is the most inclusive community-driven plan ever created for Downtown DSM with nearly 8,000 participants. 

The Partnership, in collaboration with Bravo Greater Des Moines, Catch Des Moines, City of Des Moines, Des Moines Regional Transit Authority (DART), Des Moines Downtown Chamber of Commerce, Des Moines Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), FuseDSM, Operation Downtown and Polk County, developed Downtown DSM: Future Forward, a community-driven Downtown vision plan and action plan, to help position Downtown Des Moines (DSM) for short-term economic recovery and long-term economic vitality and vibrancy. The Downtown DSM: Future Forward Steering Committee worked extensively with a consulting team made up of local, regional and national experts who have international downtown experience as well. The team consisted of RDG Planning & Design, Bâton Global and Civitas Consultants. 

The Future Forward plan was developed through an inclusive process designed to build upon the momentum of Downtown DSM and set up Downtown for future success. The growth of the Downtown population, amenities and overall vibrancy has mirrored the growth of the region in the last 20 years, and this vision plan creates a roadmap for the next chapter of Downtown and helps the region build upon the excitement that already exists Downtown through events, attractions, major projects, major employers and more. The plan addresses a long-term vision of the region, looking more than 15 years into the future. 

The plan’s vision statement is: “Downtown DSM is the destination for inclusive opportunities and welcome surprises.”  

  • DESTINATION: Downtown is a magnet of activity for events and daily life in the City, the State and Midwest region. It is one of the ways Iowa expresses its uniqueness to the world.  
  • INCLUSIVE: People have a sense of belonging with intentional and equitable inclusion. All people can find their identity within Downtown DSM.  
  • OPPORTUNITIES: A thriving environment exists with choices available for types of leisure, entertainment, living arrangements, jobs, recreation and movement.  
  • WELCOME SURPRISES: People are encouraged to discover layers of Downtown DSM’s distinct and fun experiences as they explore Downtown, then share their memories with others. 

The Downtown DSM: Future Forward Vision Plan and Action Plan addressed five plan goals: 

  • A Welcoming Urban Neighborhood 
  • Inclusive Arts and Entertainment 
  • Rewarding Market for Development 
  • Vibrant Outdoor City 
  • Connected and Sustainable Mobility 

The plan lays out a list of “Future Six” initiatives that are visionary and forward-thinking. The Future Six initiatives are guided by six broad themes: Sustainability, Vibrancy, Choice, Economic Vitality, Wellness and Inclusivity. The Future Six initiatives are: 

  • Green Ring: An effort to make more obvious connections between Downtown amenities such as the Pappajohn Sculpture Garden and the future Pro Iowa Soccer Stadium and Global Plaza/Gray’s Lake. 
  • The Skywalk Reimagined: Downtown’s skywalk network made easier to use and reimagined as a multiple use, multi- dimensional destination and experience – beyond functionality to provide discovery, color, art, history, fun and landscape – DSM’s answer to New York’s famous High Line. 
  • The Inner Circle: Creating a new loop of family-oriented residential districts linked to major mixed-use redevelopment and the Iowa Events Center (Arena District) and Court Avenue districts, featuring reclamation of historic Center Street, redevelopment along 4th Street, and reuse of surface parking lots. 
  • The Stadium District: Taking advantage of a location bordered by Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway, the Raccoon River, Principal Park and the future Pro Iowa Soccer Stadium and Global Plaza as a mixed-use center to live, create, innovate and grow businesses. 
  • Connected Corridors: An effort to better connect Downtown with surrounding neighborhoods through methods that could include adding bicycle lanes, widening pedestrian paths and using inviting landscaping to make connection points more attractive. 
  • Strong Neighborhoods: Strategic community development programs focused on maintaining and developing affordable housing, activity nodes, and attractive streets and parks in neighborhoods immediately adjacent to Downtown. 

“While many Downtowns across the country continue to struggle, partners on this plan remained committed to implement strategies for short-term economic growth and envision innovative ideas for the long-term vitality of our Downtown, focusing on the future of Downtown and investing in that future,” said Tiffany Tauscheck, Chief Operations Officer at The Partnership and President of Downtown DSM, Inc. “This is part of what sets our region apart from others. We continue to plan for a vision forward and invest in our community even during challenging times.” 

The Downtown DSM: Future Forward Vision Plan and Action Plan process was led by a Future Forward Steering Committee and a Future Forward Council with approximately 60 leaders between the two groups. Representatives included leaders with strong connections to a variety of diverse stakeholders to make the plan as inclusive as possible for people of all backgrounds including those who have been historically underrepresented. Future Forward Steering Committee Chairs included Jake Christensen, President of Christensen Development and Co-Chair of The Partnership's Downtown DSM Board, Angela Connolly, Polk County Supervisor and Tri-Chair of the Capital Crossroads 3.0 regional vision planning process, Mayor Frank Cownie, City of Des Moines, and Kathryn Kunert, Vice President of Economic Connections and Integration at MidAmerican Energy Company. Future Forward Council leaders and liaisons included Teree Caldwell-Johnson, President and CEO of Oakridge Neighborhood, Jen Carruthers, President of Capital City Pride, and Mary Sellers, President of United Way of Central Iowa. 

“This plan was driven by extensive community input, and gives us an opportunity to reimagine Downtown as a destination for residents, workers and visitors,” said Christensen. “We look forward to working with stakeholders and community members to implement this plan through a collaborative and inclusive approach to ensure continued momentum for decades to come.” 

“A strong Downtown is a key to a strong region, and Downtown Des Moines’ success has led to growth through all parts of the Greater Des Moines region,” said Connolly. “This plan lays out a vision that will benefit not only Downtown but people from across Polk County and Greater Des Moines who visit Downtown for cultural activities, festivals or any of a wide variety of reasons.” 

“The City of Des Moines includes so many unique neighborhoods and people from all backgrounds,” said Cownie. “This plan will bring people together to experience Downtown, and also strengthen surrounding neighborhoods to continue to position Des Moines as a place people across the country want to live and visit.” 

“This plan focuses on connectivity and connections in terms of physical space, shared experiences, and opportunities for cultivating relationships between people,” said Kunert. “The implementation of this plan will bring neighborhoods and people together.”  

“This process was completed in an intentionally inclusive manner, leveraging resources such as the Capital Crossroads 4 Equity Tool and gathering feedback from diverse stakeholders,” said Caldwell-Johnson. “We set out to ensure this plan benefits everyone and we are confident the final results deliver on that goal.” 

“Downtown Des Moines has something for everyone, and this plan will help ensure that everyone has an opportunity to experience our world-class Downtown,” said Carruthers. “We heard through the input process that people value cultural experiences and opportunities for socialization. This plan will ensure Downtown can be that gathering spot for years to come.” 

“Our community’s success over many years can be attributed in large part to the ability to collaborate and vision for the future,” said Sellers. “This plan will have an immediate impact on Greater Des Moines and will also shape our Downtown for future generations to enjoy.” 

For more information and to learn how to get involved, visit The Partnership’s website

About the Greater Des Moines Partnership 

The Greater Des Moines Partnership is the economic and community development organization that serves Greater Des Moines (DSM), Iowa. Together with 24 Affiliate Chambers of Commerce, more than 6,500 Regional Business Members and more than 400 Investors, The Partnership drives economic growth with one voice, one mission and as one region. Through innovation, strategic planning and global collaboration, The Partnership grows opportunity, helps create jobs and promotes DSM as the best place to build a business, a career and a future. Learn more at DSMpartnership.com

About Downtown, DSM, Inc. 

Downtown DSM, Inc. is part of the Greater Des Moines Partnership and is dedicated to ensuring the continued growth of Downtown Des Moines (DSM). A strong region needs a strong Downtown. Downtown DSM, Inc. leads efforts to drive development, placemaking and events in Downtown DSM. It promotes a strong Downtown through integration of retail, restaurants, businesses, housing, events and placemaking.