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New EMC Downtown Park opens in central business district

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EMC Downtown Park, a partnership between the city of Des Moines and EMC Insurance Cos., opened today at 701 Walnut St. The park includes play areas with interactive sculpture elements for climbing, as shown above. It also features recreation options including tables for chess, checkers and backgammon. Photos provided by the city of Des Moines

EMC Downtown Park opened today in the heart of Des Moines’ central business district on the former Younkers department store site.

The new park, located at 701 Walnut St., will serve more than 2,400 people who live within a 10-minute walk of the recreation area.

The park, first announced in July 2021, is a partnership between Des Moines Parks and Recreation and EMC Insurance Cos. The park fills a public space gap in Des Moines’ parks system and helps advance the city’s goal of providing a park within a 10-minute walk of every resident, officials said in a news release.

“There’s been a need for a neighborhood downtown park for a long time, and this project creates a really great public space for workers, residents and visitors to get outside in the midst of downtown,” Ben Page, parks and recreation director, said in a prepared statement.

The park site has been inaccessible and vacant since March 2014 when a fire destroyed the former Younkers building. EMC acquired the property in 2018. The company built the park and will retain ownership of the land while the city will maintain it.

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“EMC is excited to be able to offer this great new attraction to the city,” Scott Jean, EMC’s president and CEO, said in a prepared statement. “We think the park is a placemaking project that will contribute to downtown vibrancy and the health and wellbeing of downtown workers and residents.”

The park features half-court basketball, a pickleball court, a pingpong table and tables for chess, checkers and backgammon. It also includes a cushioned area with interactive sculptural elements for climbing, and swings and benches.

Also today, Walnut Street reopens to traffic. New stairs from the rebuilt section of the skywalk also are open.

More online: To see additional photos and a time-lapse video of development of EMC Downtown Park, click here.

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