Age 36 | Urban designer, city of Des Moines
Erin Olson-Douglas followed a trail from the farm to the city and has left footprints across the major development projects that define Des Moines.
Olson-Douglas is an urban designer for the city of Des Moines. She has steered the development of the city’s downtown master plan, called What’s Next, Downtown?, and has been involved in the design of the skywalk master plan, the Nollen Plaza redesign study, the Principal Riverwalk, the renewal of Gray’s Lake, the East Village revitalization, even the landscaping of the state Capitol grounds.
“Erin has brought high energy and professionalism to major planning and development initiatives that will shape the future of the city in a very positive way,” Larry Hulse, an assistant city manager, said in a letter nominating Olson-Douglas.
She went to work for the city in 2008 after stints with private firms in the Boston area and Greater Des Moines. Olson-Douglas has a master’s degree in architecture from Harvard University and a bachelor’s in architecture from Iowa State University.
Olson-Douglas is a frequent contributor to Iowa Architect, the professional journal of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Iowa chapter, where she also was a founder of the organization’s diversity committee.
She is a lecturer and mentor in the Iowa State architecture department. She has won awards for work on Sticks Inc. and Renaissance Tile and Marble in Urbandale, as well as for projects elsewhere in the state.
Olson-Douglas said she was drawn to urban design out of curiosity. She worked for Herbert Lewis Kruse Blunck Architecture in Des Moines during the major construction renaissance downtown. She notes that by the time architects are involved in the process, most of the development and planning decisions have been made. She moved to the public sector to participate in that process.
“Those decisions make a difference in what our community is like,” Olson-Douglas said.
Her involvement is making a difference.
“Erin has brought new energy, initiative and fresh ideas to the city’s planning and development efforts,” said Des Moines City Manager Rick Clark.
Barbara Adams, president of The Consortium, a women’s business club, wrote that Olson-Douglas “continues to create environments that positively affect how the people of Des Moines travel, work, relax and connect as a community.”