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Thread: Des Moines, Iowa

  1. #1
    Member DMRyan's avatar
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    Des Moines, Iowa

    Des Moines, Iowa
    Captial of Iowa
    3rd largest Insurance Center in the world
    A fairly white collar city of 199,000, ~485,000 in metro(2002 estimate)

    I worked for the City of Des Moines Planning Department as an intern for two summers, and the the workload was fairly tremendous. There's a lot going on in the downtown construction wise. Let me know what you think of the place: any comments or impressions?






































  2. #2

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    Looks pleasant. Nicer/livelier than my hometown (Fort Wayne, Indiana) but a similar scale.

    I've read that the skytube system has pretty much killed pedestrian level street life downtown. Is that your experience?

  3. #3
    Cyburbian el Guapo's avatar
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    Very Nice. I'm impressed. Thanks for the photos.

  4. #4

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    Des Moines looks much more impressive than I would've thought. But then again, most of the Midwest gets short shrift from those within and beyond the region.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian DecaturHawk's avatar
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    Capital of the Heartland

    Very nice shots. I was the CD Director in Clive (western suburb of DSM) for two years ('97-'99), but lived in the Beaverdale neighborhood of Des Moines. Des Moines is one of those smaller cities with a great urban feel. The tall building there is 45 stories high - taller than the tallest buildings in most of the larger surrounding Midwestern cities (St. Louis, Kansas City, Omaha, St. Paul, and Milwaukee, but not Minneapolis or Chicago, of course). The architectural pedigree is very high, with downtown buildings by Burnham, VanderRohe, and others, while the local architects are excellent (the HLKB firm was recognized as the top firm in the country by Architecture and Design Magazine a few years back). There's some great historic districts, a fine university (Drake), and plenty to see and do. The only strike against it is that they still haven't figured out how to deal with redevelopment in the poorest neighborhoods. But all in all, it's a great town.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian oulevin's avatar
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    Des Moines

    Those pictures certainly filled my void of an impression of the city. Looks very nice. Nice water features, public spaces, and retention of older structures, combined with the new. Thanks for the photos!

  7. #7
    Member DMRyan's avatar
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    Thanks for the comments.

    BKM, you are correct in that the skywalks have virturally killed off most of the streetlife, but people do come out en masse during nice weather. Lately, there has been a return to the streets, with several new shops, restaurants and art galleries relocating to the first level. There's almost a whole city inside the skywalk system, even a semi-failing mall. Des Moines is said to have North America's largest skywalk system per capita.

    DecaturHawk, I see you have some Des Moines experience. Beaverdale is an awesome neighborhood, even if the houses are a little on the small side. There is somewhat of a deep architectual tradition here, which is being carried on today with the construction of the new public library.
    What do you mean by the city having difficulty dealing with redeveloping the poorest neighborhoods? During my internship, the cities two most distressed neighborhoods were the focus of our efforts. You might be amazed at the progress made, including the long coveted full-service inner city grocery store, which has just opened up this year. Property values have increased in many of the distressed northside neighborhoods, and vacant lots are being infilled quite quickly. Of course, this is all relative. The worst neighborhood in Des Moines has nothing on the bigger cities I've seen.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian DecaturHawk's avatar
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    Originally posted by DMRyan

    What do you mean by the city having difficulty dealing with redeveloping the poorest neighborhoods? During my internship, the cities two most distressed neighborhoods were the focus of our efforts. You might be amazed at the progress made, including the long coveted full-service inner city grocery store, which has just opened up this year. Property values have increased in many of the distressed northside neighborhoods, and vacant lots are being infilled quite quickly. Of course, this is all relative. The worst neighborhood in Des Moines has nothing on the bigger cities I've seen.
    I'm glad to hear this. When I was there, the City Manager had just started, and a new mayor was elected just after I left. While I was there the elements needed to implement effective redevelopment probably hadn't come together yet. Which neighborhoods did you concentrate on, and where is the new grocery?

    BTW, DMRyan, are you still a student at ISU (former home of Natural Lite Larry), or have you started your career somewhere? Thanks again for the photos, they are of professional quality.

  9. #9
    Member DMRyan's avatar
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    Hawk, I just graduated last December and managed to get a job for a Council of Governments in the Fort Dodge, Iowa area. After seeing first hand how rough the job market is right now, I was happy to get the position amidst stiff competition. I've gotten plenty of ribbing from Hawkeye fans about the situation at Iowa State, even though many Cyclone supporters were totally behind Eustachy.

    The neighborhoods I concentrated on while interning in the neighborhood development department were known as River Bend and King-Irving. These are the near north side neighborhoods north of University, west of 6th Ave, and east of MLK Parkway. The grocery store redevelopment involved a lot of housing rehab in the immediate area, and is located at 6th and University.

    Do you ever make it back DecaturHawk? You might be amazed by the transformation that has taken place in a few short years.

  10. #10
    Corn Burning Fool giff57's avatar
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    Originally posted by DMRyan
    Hawk, I just graduated last December and managed to get a job for a Council of Governments in the Fort Dodge, Iowa area.
    How is MIDAS? I grew up 40 miles North of Fort Dodge, and now work 70 Miles West of there.

  11. #11
    Member DMRyan's avatar
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    Giff, MIDAS is alright. It's a nice entry level planning job that lets me do a lot of different things, including getting a foothold to the enormous bureacracy that is the CDBG process. It's a small agency that only serves about 102,000 people, but we manage to stay busy. I'm finding the rural mentality and good ol' boy system tougher to adapt to, but Des Moines isn't far away if I need my city fix. Fort Dodge isn't a very nice town though. I tell people that I work in Fort Dodge, but I live in Des Moines on the weekends, which is true. It's a pretty depressed place overall.

    How's life in Holstein treating you?

  12. #12
    Corn Burning Fool giff57's avatar
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    I love the rural mentality, and the way to beat the good ol boy situation is to jump into the community with both feet.

    Holstein is fine, I like the challenge of being the City Administrator, but there is a learning curve. I am happy with my progress though. I have a Highyway 20 meeting tomorrow, looks like someone from MIDAS is on the list.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Hey, I just stayed there last night! Des Moines is a nice city, and perhaps the last really nice large one on or near I-80 between the Mississippi and Salt Lake.

  14. #14

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    Nice pics, thanks for sharing

    I'm a DSM native, but now voluntarily exiled to the Deepest South. It is an interesting town, and full of cool architectural stuff (I still think the front "lawn' of my high school, Roosevelt, is pretty awesome, along with the older part of that building).

    I made the 'mistake' of attending planning school at Iowa rather than ISU... I've had a great career as a transportation planner, but if you want to get hired in Iowa you have a much better chance if you have a planning degree from ISU rather than Iowa. Haven't figured that one out yet! I miss home, but I do NOT - repeat DO NOT - miss the horrible weather 9 out of 12 months of the year

    Hey, at least you got RID of your coach - we can't get rid of Steve Awful.

  15. #15
    Cyburbian DecaturHawk's avatar
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    Originally posted by Another Non Sequitur
    I made the 'mistake' of attending planning school at Iowa rather than ISU...
    Surely you speak sacrilege....

    Honestly, ISU has a decent program, especially for undergrads, and when I was with Clive I had some very good interns from there. ISU's programs are part of the College of Design and are more technically and design oriented. U. of Iowa's graduate program (UI doesn't have an undergraduate planning program) is more policy oriented, which I found more useful once I entered the real world of local government.

    I don't know why ISU grads fare better in Iowa than UI grads, but one reason might be that at least 60 percent of the planning jobs are in the Des Moines area, and proximity to that farm school just up the road means a lot of ISU grads are in the area and hold the management positions. The other metro areas in Iowa are not growing as much, and hiring in those areas is less frequent (I would love to find work back home myself, but jobs are scarce, especially in Eastern Iowa).

    Alfraud will have to prove himself this next year, or he has to go.

  16. #16
    Corn Burning Fool giff57's avatar
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    Originally posted by DecaturHawk
    Surely you speak sacrilege....

    It's real hard to get a job in COG in Iowa without that ISU degree. They seem to like those ISU grads.?

  17. #17

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    Originally posted by DecaturHawk
    Surely you speak sacrilege....

    Alfraud will have to prove himself this next year, or he has to go.
    Actually, now that I'm a big, grown up boy, I think I would have really enjoyed being a landscape architect, and while this is no knock against Iowa, at all, I do at times wish I'd gone to ISU for grad school instead and gotten that LA degree - but this thought is totally without speaking with other LAs, how much they make, career ops, etc. I do think I wouldn't be quite so confined - in my private sector options - as a LA to having to move to the suburbs of some big expensive megalopolis. My wife really wants to live in the country. We've talked about Atlanta - in the sense that if I worked as a consultant there, the office probably wouldn't be in the core and it wouldn't be a big deal if we lived an hour further out from the edge, thus making horse property affordable.

    Also, my wife is a UGA graduate and she'd like to be back in Georgia - but there's no way I'd move to Atlanta if I had to work downtown. Too many hassles to get there.

    I would have fired Alfraud before this year started. All the player defections and just general problems with the program aren't worth having to come up with the cash to exile him given the golden parachute contract he signed...

  18. #18

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    I've visited Des Moines 3 times in the last year and although it hasa booming job market, the city is quite dull and lacks good nightlife. And a little ethnic diversity wouldn't hurt either.

  19. #19
    Corn Burning Fool giff57's avatar
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    Originally posted by West Side Rider
    And a little ethnic diversity wouldn't hurt either.
    You must have missed the Bosnian and Asian neighborhoods. But it is Iowa after all, so yes, it is a pretty white city.

  20. #20
    Member DMRyan's avatar
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    Iowa State has an excellent accredited undergrand planning program, that was just recently merged with the landscape architecture department. The two degrees are going to be increasingly tied to each other in the future. As said earlier, ISU's planning program excels in the technical and design aspects of the profession, which are great fundamentals to have. If I could do things over again, I likely would've attained my BS degree in Political Science or Public Adminstration, and went to planning for graduate school. My goal now is to do the reverse: I've already gotten the BS in planning, and I hope to obtain a master's in Public Administration.

    When I interned for the City of Des Moines Community Development Department, virtually everyone there (but my boss) was an ISU grad, and this was echoed even more in West Des Moines and the MPO. The adminstrators love hiring ISU grad's and there are plenty of chances to network in the Central Iowa planning community if you put the effort into it.



    As far as Des Moines is concerned, I'm a pretty diehard follower of the development game/city politics that go on there, and can be a great all around "tourist guide" for the city.
    I think one of the biggest downfalls from a young person's perspective is the lack of a decent nightlife in comparison to other places. There are some great things to do here, but you have to look harder. There is almost a strange sense of apathy when it comes to going out in this city. People are so used to complaining how boring the place is, that even when a great concert or event does come up, the turnout never seems to be that great. A majority of the people seem content on just spending another night at some suburban bar, or sitting around at home instead of supporting great cultural or entertainment events. It's still a small place though, and I've noticed it getting considerably better in the past few years. There's a great sense of progressivism on the horizon, and Des Moines is close to moving on to that next level.

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