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Quarterly report shows increasing foot traffic, economic momentum downtown

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Business Record file photo

Downtown Des Moines saw foot traffic increase to an average of 83% of pre-pandemic levels in the first quarter of 2023, according to a new quarterly report published by the Greater Des Moines Partnership.

The report, released Wednesday, looks at activity in downtown Des Moines during the first quarter of 2023.

“This report really highlights the momentum and the trends for downtown on a quarterly basis,” said Tiffany Tauschek, chief operating officer and president of Downtown DSM Inc. “We wanted to do that and it was very intentional to ensure that we’re lifting up and celebrating the key wins we’re already seeing in our downtown to help continue to tell that story of momentum.”

Here are five things you need to know from the report:

  1. Downtown foot traffic between Jan. 1 and March 24 rose to 83% of pre-pandemic levels. Foot traffic averaged nearly 65% of pre-pandemic levels Monday through Friday, and more than 91% on weekends. The overall average of 83% was higher than the national Kastle Back to Work Barometer, which was 48%.
  2. The Partnership helped with two business location or expansion projects — OpenLoop Health and Gross-Wen Technologies — that resulted in $11 million in capital investment in the downtown area. Gross-Wen moved into space on the 15th floor of the Financial Center to provide space for Des Moines-based employees and to host clients and investors who fly into Des Moines International Airport, officials with the Partnership said. Look for a follow-up story on Gross-Wen in an upcoming Business Record newsletter.
  3. There were more than 129,400 impressions and more than 6,000 engagements on Downtown DSM social media channels in the quarter. There were also more than 26,000 unique page views on Downtown DSM websites.
  4. StudyFinds ranked Des Moines as the second-best place to live in the Midwest; US News & World Report listed Des Moines at No. 14 in its best places to live in the U.S. rankings; and the World Food & Music Festival was nominated by USA Today for the Favorite City Food Festival.
  5. There were 87,000 pounds of trash removed, 142 graffiti tags removed, and 19,200 public dog waste bags replenished.
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While the foot traffic numbers are above the national average, the Monday through Friday numbers indicate more work is needed to bring more people back downtown during traditional working hours, Tauscheck said.

“What’s interesting, and this is a trend we’re hearing from around the region and from other communities, is foot traffic is elevated on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays for traditional working hours, and our job is to continue to create reasons for people to come to the office on Mondays and Fridays as well,” she said.

Tauscheck also highlighted the economic development and capital investment as signs of momentum downtown. She singled out the OpenLoop project, which will bring in 400 jobs to downtown Des Moines.

“This is atypical for a downtown in our country to have this kind of workforce and project new and in-person downtown, and that’s a differentiator that we have for our community that we should really be proud of,” she said.

One statistic not included in the report was that the Partnership assisted on 14 projects downtown in 2022, the highest number of projects in one year downtown in more than a decade, Tauscheck said.

“This illustrates there is momentum and there are other projects we’re working on that we can’t talk about yet, but we’re really excited … and there is great momentum in downtown,” she said.


Michael Crumb

Michael Crumb is a senior staff writer at Business Record. He covers economic development, transportation, energy & environment, culture, sales & marketing.

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