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Beaverdale leaders call ffor pedestrian center


If Beaverdale residents and business owners get their wish, visitors to this Des Moines neighborhood will be able to park their cars and enjoy easy access to an abundance of establishments by foot or bicycle in the near future, thanks to a proposed new pedestrian center.

Martin Shukert, principal of RDG Crose Gardner Shukert, lead a design and planning team that brainstormed ideas with business owners and residents for two days last week to on how to improve the commercial district. The Beaverdale Commercial Village Taskforce, consisting of four members of the Beaverdale Neighborhood Association, sponsored event to gather input from the public. Shukert said participants focused on how to attract businesses, how to better utilize parking and improving the quality and look of the area.

“I think people are highly motivated to do this,” Shukert said. “This should enhance the marketability of the area.”

Emily Lawson, a landscape architect with RDG Crose Gardner Shukert, said a pedestrian crossing center at the intersection Sheridan and Beaver avenues is a priority.

“A lot of people have come to us with good ideas,” Lawson said. “The pedestrian center is a focus because we want to create an environment that supports niche businesses in that area.”

In addition to the pedestrian center, Lawson said, leaders called for streetscape improvements, including the installation of decorative lighting and flower planters; buildings to house businesses on the ground floor and residential units on the upper floors; and the conversion of the vacated Walgreen’s building to accommodate future businesses or perhaps a youth or community center.

Shukert said a timetable has yet to be established for the project, but he estimated that work on the neighborhood’s southeast side, which includes the demolition of the former Little Caesar’s pizzeria, could be completed within the next two years. The cost of the project is also to be determined, but Shukert said it wouldn’t be “tremendously expensive.”

“It’s been a fantastic process. We’re excited about the amount of young people and businesses involved,” said Joe Jongewaard, a Beaverdale Neighborhood Association board member. “There have been a lot of exciting ideas to make Beaverdale an attractive walker-, biker- and family-friendly gathering area.”

Over the years, neighborhood officials said, the area has lost more businesses than it has gained. But last week’s meetings have generated some interest from businesses in other parts of town.

“We have had some businesses call us saying they’re interested in relocating to Beaverdale,” Jongewaard said. “It’s created quite a bit of excitement.

“Many people regard Beaverdale as a place of distinction in Des Moines. It’s important we give both residents and business owners what they need to guarantee the viability of the neighborhood.”

Community officials said members of the task force have been meeting since November to create a strategic plan for revitalizing Beaverdale’s commercial district. They said the group has formulated short-, medium- and long-term goals and is currently conducting surveys, including last week’s discussions, to identify major issues and problems affecting the neighborhood.  

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