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Business Record editorial: The value of creative partnerships


Encouraging to the proponents of unified local government and cooperation among local government entities should be a recent effort that will fit the final piece of the Gateway West project into place. Too often, the line is that entities don’t cooperate not because they can’t, but because they won’t; that they operate at cross purposes; that they’re so consumed with promoting their own self-interests that projects addressing the greater good get lost in political turf battles.

Sometimes, that’s the case. In this instance, it isn’t. The Gateway West Park between 13th and 15th streets is one of a handful of critical development projects carrying the potential to make downtown Des Moines feel a little more like a big-league city and to attract more investments on the scale of Allied Insurance’s new $137 million corporate headquarters, the impressive restoration of The Temple for Performing Arts and Meredith Corp.’s multimillion-dollar expansion in 1998.

To make the deal happen, Polk County plans to lend its larger debt capacity to the cash-strapped city of Des Moines and issue $12 million in bonds. The Downtown Community Alliance, representing private-sector businesses, stepped in with $6 million that will be applied to the city’s existing financial obligations relating to Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway and Interstate 235 road construction projects. The net effect of the complex arrangement is that the city and DCA will share in the costs to complete the project on a 50-50 basis.

Who says combined governance can’t work? This arrangement proves cooperation — whether informal, as it is in this case, or formal, such as that proposed by the commission on combining city and county governments — not only can work, but should be the lens through which all projects promoting the metro area are viewed.

Look at what can be accomplished with a simple joining of hands. The Gateway West Park is more than a patch of green land. It represents a promise to the city of Des Moines — a pledge that carries with it higher tax valuations in a city that desperately needs them. Though the park itself won’t generate taxes, the taxable valuation of the area has increased from around $30 million when the idea was conceived about a decade ago to more than $100 million today.

Imagine what completion of the project can do for the city’s tax base and development. Imagine what would have happened without cooperation.  

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