The following article was initially published on Nov. 7, 2019 via the Des Moines Register.

The first nosegrind at Des Moines’ skate park — the nation’s largest.

Construction of a stadium that could bring high-level professional soccer to central Iowa.

And the opening of two historic hotels that have undergone years-long rehabilitations.

These are a few of the 10 things to keep an eye on next year in downtown Des Moines.

The Des Moines Downtown Chamber of Commerce released its list of development projects to watch in 2020 during a program Thursday at the Science Center of Iowa.

Here’s what we have to expect:

 

The federal courthouse

The $137 million federal courthouse will begin to take shape next year. Under construction now, it is scheduled to open in 2022.

The nine-story structure will be located on the west bank of the Des Moines River at 101 Locust St., site of the former Riverfront YMCA, which was demolished in 2015. Des Moines is one of five U.S. cities getting new federal court facilities to alleviate space and security concerns.

“It’s going to change the sky-scape of our riverfront,” said Tim Leach, senior vice president of downtown development for the Greater Des Moines Partnership. “And it’s going to be fun to watch it go up.”

 

The arrival of e-scooters

A group of Des Moines officials is gathering to consider how electric scooters could be used downtown. They’re looking at issues such as safety, cleanliness and equity before determining whether private e-scooter sharing companies can launch their services.

Users would be able to rent the scooters, powered by small electric motors, using a smartphone app. While supporters herald the scooters as a solution to urban traffic congestion, critics have condemned them as a nuisance that endangers pedestrians and litters city sidewalks (riders generally can leave scooters anywhere they want when they’re done with them).

Despite these and other concerns, cities across the country have embraced the scooters, and Des Moines is considering them as an option.

“I think that micro-mobility is coming, so it’s time to get out ahead of it,” Leach said.

 

A professional soccer stadium

If the planners can secure funding, Des Moines could see the start of construction on a new professional soccer stadium on the south side of downtown next year.

The 6,000- to 8,000-seat stadium would be home to a USL Championship soccer club that could begin play by 2022. It would be part of a mixed-use development with restaurants, retail and office space near Southwest 14th Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway. The 13-acre site would cost about $95 million to develop.

The development team has yet to secure the public funding it is seeking to help pay for the project. But it plans to purchase the land before the end of the year.

“There’s a ways to go but I think it’s visionary,” Leach said.

It’s not the only potential soccer-related project in Des Moines. The city is considering spending $30 million to upgrade its James W. Cownie Soccer Complex southeast of downtown in order to secure larger youth sports tournaments.

U.S. Youth Soccer announced Wednesday that the Cownie complex will host the organization’s 2021 National Presidents Cup. This type of tournament wouldn’t be possible without that investment, said James Spiller, director of design for Blackbird Investments.

 

New forms of recreation

The Lauridsen Skatepark and a plan for a whitewater rafting course on the Des Moines River will bring new forms of recreation to downtown.

The long-awaited skate park on the riverfront is under construction and is expected to open in the spring. At 88,000 square feet of skateable space, it will be the nation’s largest. It will also have a spectator park with viewing platforms, accessible walkways, shade structures and natural landscaping.

The group behind the skate park recently met its $6.3 million fundraising goal.

“This is going to bring a major gathering space to Des Moines,” Spiller said.

Also scheduled next year is the design work for dam mitigation on the downtown stretch of the Des Moines River, which would pave the way for whitewater rafting on the river. Private funds are in place to complete the design work, which will clear the way to seek bids on the project.

While rafters won’t be rolling down the river next year, there will be significant progress toward that goal.

 

Downtown domiciles

Several owner-occupied condominium and townhome projects are planned or under construction downtown.

The Edison condo building, being built at 400 SW Seventh St., will have 52 units in a pair of three-story buildings.

The studio, one- and two-bedroom units will range in size from 600-1,500 square feet. Prices are expected to range from $150,000 to $300,000.

Also under construction are the Cityview 34 brownstones on Keosauqua Way near Interstate 235. Each three-story unit will have two bedrooms, 2 1/2 bathrooms, a two-car garage and a rooftop balcony. Prices range from $250,000 to $360,000.

Owner-occupied townhomes are also under construction at Gray’s Station, an urban neighborhood on the southern edge of downtown. Prices range from $330,000 to $570,000.

After a recent boom in apartment construction, downtown residents are now demanding options for home ownership, Spiller said. The new units are building off the success of owner-occupied units at the Bridge District in the East Village, he said.

“It’s been a great boon to the East Village and the downtown community,” Spiller said. “These offerings will only boost downtown.”

 

New social concepts

The trend of social gaming venues and other unique gathering spaces “isn’t going away” anytime soon, Spiller said.

The West Des Moines-based pickleball venue Smash Park is looking to expand downtown or in the East Village. Ricochet, an indoor gaming lounge with a focus on ping pong, plans to move across the river from East Village to a new downtown location at Capital Square in the spring. And the restoration of a historic train depot in the East Village will provide new outdoor gathering space in the city’s core.

 

The arrival of national retailers

Leach and other downtown officials said they believe major “place-making” projects like the skate park and river trails, as well as the resurgence of owner-occupied housing, will encourage national retailers to look at downtown Des Moines for new locations.

No plans have been announced but officials are encouraged, Leach said. The Partnership has created a database of available properties and is presenting those opportunities to local and national brokers, he said.

Two national chains, West Elm furniture and Lululemon apparel, recently opened East Village locations.

 

Historic hotel renovations

The historic rehabilitations of the Midland Building and Hotel Fort Des Moines are expected to be complete next year.

In the Midland Building located at 206 Sixth Ave., the Surety Hotel will have 138 rooms, a 200-person ballroom, meeting space and a private outdoor courtyard. The Mulberry Street Tavern, a restaurant and bar, will open on the first floor.

The Hotel Fort Des Moines is undergoing a $50 million, top-to-bottom renovation that will restore its lobby to its original grandeur. Built in 1919, the hotel has hosted 10 presidents and stars like Elvis Presley and Elizabeth Taylor.

“These are really key, visible buildings that have played a vital part in our history,” Spiller said.

Near-downtown revitalization

Also in 2020, Des Moines will see major plans to revitalize neighborhoods, some of which are connectors to downtown.

Funds will go to the Oak Park/Highland Park neighborhood — just a short drive from downtown — to help repair homes and bring new businesses to the Sixth Avenue corridor. Efforts will also target the McKinley School/Columbus Park neighborhood, located just south of downtown near Principal Park.

Infill housing will be built where long-vacant homes have been demolished. And new development, including condos, a hotel and luxury apartments, is going along Ingersoll and Grand avenues.

“What happens at the edges is equally as vital as what happens at the heart” of the city, Spiller said.

 

Momentum in the Market District

Work is ongoing to transform an industrial area south of the East Village into a walkable, mixed-use district with thousands of residential units, retail shops and offices, capped by parks on each end.

The Rowat Lofts, an apartment building at the site of the former Rowat Cut Stone workshop, opened last month. And TWG Development plans to start soon on an apartment complex that would replace a recycling center.

Officials expect to see even more progress in the Market District in coming years under a recently released master plan.

“It will be worth it for everybody to keep their eye on (this neighborhood),” Leach said.

Development in the Market District will complete the southern edge of the East Village, and improvements will likely spill into the adjacent McKinley School/Columbus Park neighborhood — one of the areas the city identified in its neighborhood master plan.

 

 

To read more about the exciting additions coming to Des Moines, click here.