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About Operation Downtown

Created to help make Downtown Des Moines (DSM) a safer, cleaner place to work, live and visit, Operation Downtown is classified as a Self-Supported Municipal Improvement District (SSMID). The mission is to keep Downtown DSM clean, safe, welcoming and vibrant in support of a positive experience. Programs include trash cleanup, pressure washing and visitor assistance. Operation Downtown, a 501(c)6, was formed in 1998 by business leaders to provide enhanced services that are not provided by the City of Des Moines. Today, Operation Downtown’s work not only enhances Downtown DSM, but it also has raised the standards of what a clean, safe and vibrant city should look like.

Mission Statement

Keeping Downtown DSM clean, safe, welcoming, and vibrant in support of a positive experience.



Reduce litter and improve the visual appearance of public spaces. 


Enhance the Downtown experience by working to reduce behaviors that detract from this experience, and through key placemaking that connects corridors and supports events and activities.  


Help make sure Downtown Des Moines is a place where individuals of all abilities and backgrounds feel welcome and able to move through it easily.  


Maintain a line item in the budget for “Special Projects/Placemaking” to increase Downtown’s vibrancy through ‘Welcome Surprises.’ Assess and adjust Operation Downtown programming to meet the needs of a changing community by empowering business owners to champion efforts as well. 

High Quality Program Management

Provide staff the autonomy and flexibility to make decisions on behalf of the Board if said decisions support the mission and vision and follow the guiding principles to help achieve organizational goals. 

Annual Report

For years Operation Downtown has worked to ensure that the heart of Iowa’s capital city remains a source of pride year-round. Operation Downtown’s Ambassadors work behind the scenes to keep the city safe and clean, lending a helping hand to people throughout Downtown DSM. 

Read the Fiscal Year 2023 Operation Downtown Annual Report

Board of Directors

The Operation Downtown Board of Directors consists of more than 30 prominent members of the Des Moines community who represent various geographic areas of Downtown DSM and work together to keep the city safe, clean and beautiful.

What is a SSMID?

A Self-Supported Municipal Improvement District (SSMID) is a defined area within which businesses pay an additional fee to fund improvements and enhanced services within the district’s boundaries. The services SSMIDs provide are supplemental to those already provided by the municipality. The Downtown Des Moines SSMID is also known as Operation Downtown.

How is Operation Downtown funded?

Operation Downtown, Downtown DSM's SSMID, is primarily funded by Downtown DSM commercial property owners through a fee structure based on assessed value. Local hospitals also voluntarily contribute to the budget. Operation Downtown is managed by the Greater Des Moines Partnership and Operation Downtown Board of Directors, who represent the various geographic areas and property sizes/values Downtown.

How does Operation Downtown work with the City of Des Moines?

Though Operation Downtown is not affiliated with the City, the organization works closely with municipal employees to to provide an extra level of service that makes Downtown a desirable place. It is a collaboration that enriches and presents Downtown Des Moines in the best possible way.