If you've noticed the area south of the East Village continuing to grow, you're not imagining it. The neighborhood located to the south of East Village and across the river from Downtown is getting a facelift.
The area was originally owned by both the City of Des Moines and Mid-American Energy but both will no longer occupy the space so that redevelopment can happen. In the past, this area was mainly occupied with different industrial uses but will be transformed with several redevelopment projects. The main goal is to make it a mostly walkable urban neighborhood called the Market District.
This neighborhood will be able to accommodate a variety of household types and income levels as well as office and hospitality spaces. Although mostly pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly, it will have some features for regular traffic and transit vehicles. The northwest section has the greatest potential for urban and pedestrian-friendly uses. There will be plenty of parks, open green spaces, and trails in hopes to make this one of the greenest neighborhoods in the state. If all green initiatives are able to be completed, the Market District will also be near the top of these types of environmentally-friendly projects happening in the country.
The desired plan is to have a majority of the Market District used for multi-family units, both rentals and owner-occupied, and have street-facing entrances. Most townhomes and row houses will face parks and parkway frontages. In total the goal is to have:
- About 3400 Housing Units
- 3300+ multifamily and 100+ townhomes
- Over 7500 parking stalls of various types
Parking will be varied from on-street, in-surface lots, or parking structures that are within the same block or close by for multi-family units and parking tucked-under, attached, or detached for townhomes. There may also be a return of duplexes, 4-plexes, 8-plexes, and 12-plexes since there seems to be a renewed demand.
Except for a handful of useable buildings, the area between Market Street and MLK will be cleaned out and completely redeveloped. Buildings that will remain include:
- Office buildings & multi-family projects currently in use
- Retail stores
- Some government functions like the Des Moines Police Station
Anything that would be added would be based on what the City feels there is a need for and what has worked well for other areas like Downtown or East Village. This neighborhood will complement those two areas as well.
One of the biggest draws for residents in the Market District will definitely be the walkability. For starters, it’s a 10-minute walk to most of the East Village. A few key neighborhood businesses within walking distance would be:
- Small neighborhood grocery store
- Drug store
- Professional services like dentists and accountants
- Neighborhood-focused restaurants, pubs, and convenience consumer goods
A public square called the Market Street Plaza is planned and will have mostly ground-level neighborhood-focused businesses and retail stores. Although there are still driveable streets, the plan is to have calmer driving traffic with narrow traffic lanes, generous sidewalks, and a maximum speed limit of 25 mph.
Cohen Park south of MLK will be upgraded to include a natural stormwater bowl to help with the area’s stormwater issues along with native trees, flowers, and grasses to add a natural look. It will create a temporary pond to help the area from flooding until the water is able to evaporate or gradually be used to water the area.
Destination Riverfront Park will overlook the Des Moines River and will be used for outdoor concerts, movies, and other performances. It will also have a uniquely detailed playground, dog park, food truck plaza, sports courts, and many more attractions and activities. It will sit next to the river off of East 2nd Street and span from Red Bridge to MLK Jr Pkwy.
On the eastern side of the Market District, there will be a naturalized park that is primarily for helping manage stormwater. A subtle bowl shape in the ground surrounded by Iowa-native plants will help with containing stormwater and outflow under SE 9th Street. The western edge will be like a town square with a pavilion, playground, and large lawn. The other plan for this park is to include boardwalks and shared paths for walking, running, and bicycling. The largest for the Market District neighborhood, it will go from the SE 14th Street bridge to East 7th Street and be bordered to the north by the walking trail from Red Bridge and MLK Jr Pkwy on the south.
Community gardens, along with green rooftops, will be part of the green initiative of the Market District and will be encouraged in other parts of the neighborhood as well. As a way to reduce light pollution, the district will look to install Cutoff Fixtures or Full Cutoff Fixtures to keep street lights more focused on the ground than upward.
East Market Street will be a direct connection between Destination Riverfront Park and the naturalized park. It will be designed as a shared green space for pedestrians and vehicles alike. The street will be curbless with short posts to separate it from the walkway. There will also be plenty of space for outdoor dining as well as festivals, markets, and pop-ups.
Another new attraction in this neighborhood will be called the East Village Promenade & Trail. The walkway will go from Red Bridge over the Des Moines River to East 7th Street then up the hill to a shared-use path to the Capitol Complex. It will be for bicycles and pedestrians only but will have areas for food truck stalls, community gardens, and courts for sand volleyball, pickleball, bocce ball, and basketball. It will be decorated with native landscaping, seating, fire pits, and festival lighting to make the street’s appearance more inviting. Any nearby buildings will be encouraged to have outdoor patios and additional entrances that open to the promenade.
A couple of different studies were done in 2018 to help decide how to best use the area.
- A workshop for staff from different City Departments covered topics such as the planning process and discussed existing, planned, and potential developments.
- One-on-one interviews were held with 25 individuals including local business owners, developers, local property owners, and Planning & Zoning commissioners to get feedback on the impact of future development of the Market District.
- An intensive hands-on visioning workshop where City Staff, key stakeholders, and the general public were invited to attend gave an overview of the planning process then asked for feedback about any weaknesses or opportunities to the plan as well as confirming any strong points or pointing out possible issues. Afterward, it was reviewed by other City Staff and members of the Urban Design Review Board.
We are excited for what the Market District will bring for Des Moines and you, its residents. If you want to follow the progress and see all the updates, make sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram. If you have questions about this development project, feel free to contact our Office of Economic Development staff.