Keep the pressure on
Development stories have dominated this newspaper’s pages for months, and we’ve been heartened to see other media outlets finally beginning to catch on.
Stories about downtown development, from the Gateway West to Court Avenue and across the Des Moines River to the East Village, have become so common that they are almost passé. The same is true of our suburbs, particularly to the north and west. How fortunate we are.
Visitors from out of town, particularly the East and West coasts, marvel at the number of cranes that punctuate Des Moines’ skyline. The economic slowdown, though pinching some sectors of Central Iowa’s economy, has been nothing here compared with what other regions are living through.
That said, there are threats to our prosperity. Among them is the Des Moines City Council, which has been distracted by pre-election jockeying and backbiting. The infighting is making life difficult for economic development officials who are trying to shepherd various construction plans through City Hall.
Another threat is ambivalence or discouragement on the part of our citizens. It’s true that there have been more than a handful of plans to revitalize downtown in the past.
There are reasons, however, to believe that Des Moines has started on the uphill road this time. First is the amount of development that has already come to fruition, from the Wells Fargo Financial building and the Allied building to the Capitol Lofts and Woodland Avenue Brickstone projects. Next is the large cross section of the business and leadership community who believe in the trend.
Wells Fargo Bank Iowa Chief Executive H. Lynn Horak and Des Moines entrepreneur and investor Gary Kirke are just two individuals out of a dozen who have recently told this newspaper that they believe the metro area is on an upswing.
There are those who argue that any development in Central Iowa is good development, and to that we agree – conditionally. Peripheral development is positive as long as it doesn’t shift the balance of power away from the city’s center. Greater Detroit, once one of the nation’s great urban areas, is a perfect example of vibrant suburbs that now surround a decaying center.
Des Moines’ resurging interest in downtown housing is proof that continued pressure over time produces results. Let’s keep up the effort.