Up to $111 million over five years is needed to improve neighborhood properties, enhance blighted areas and make infrastructure repairs, including paving nearly 100 miles of unpaved streets, according to a report today to the Des Moines City Council.

 

The neighborhood improvement plan is part of the city's involvement in the Capital Crossroads regional planning process. A subcommittee chaired by Russ Cross, vice president for government relations at Wells Fargo & Co., was charged with developing a plan that would "improve the perception of and experience within Des Moines' neighborhoods, increase demand for living in the Capital core, leverage existing assets to strengthen and enrich neighborhood character and identify new resources to make meaningful, visible changes possible."

 

According to the report, the city spends $3.5 million a year in neighborhood revitalization efforts in addition to capital improvements in neighborhoods, but that amount is inadequate to gain ground on decay in some neighborhoods.

 

In 10 neighborhoods, more than 15 percent of the housing stock is in "below normal, poor or very poor condition," according to the report, and 2.4 percent of all residential properties are vacant.

 

The subcommittee recommended developing a method to identify and acquire blighted properties and creating a land bank to hold and market properties for redevelopment. The report also advocates building 75 single-family residences over five years on infill sites.

 

A separate report today to the council also addressed ways to encourage new residential construction in the city.

 

The neighborhood improvement subcommittee also encouraged city leaders to find ways to trigger investment in commercial areas. According to the report, Des Moines' share of the region's total retail sales dropped to less than 50 percent in 2010 from 71 percent in 1998. Per capita sales in Des Moines decreased by 40 percent, while other Greater Des Moines communities had double-digit increases.

 

Streets are getting shortchanged, too, according to the report, which said the current city budget is $7 million short of what is needed to maintain the current condition of streets and that another $5 million per year is needed over 20 years to improve streets to "'good' or better."

 

The subcommittee also suggested setting aside $500,000 to improve communications and marketing efforts to promote the city. Click here for a copy of the report.