Neighborhood Improvements

Neighborhood Improvement priorityMany Des Moines homeowners have experienced a loss of equity as their property values have decreased due to nearby nuisance properties, aging infrastructure or the financial inability to make improvements to their property.

Local Option revenue has been committed to improve the City’s ability to remove uninhabitable properties, as well as expanded library hours and provided financial assistance to homeowners invested in the improvement of their home and neighborhood.

"As the city continues to grow, I thought it was important to address the number of abandoned properties in certain areas of the city. Many of these homes have been vacant for decades. I believe the city is making significant process in fulfilling this promise to the voters. I look forward to the new affordable housing that will be built in these formerly blighted locations.

Rev. Dr. Frederick Gaddy, Member, A Mid-Iowa Organizing Strategy (AMOS)

FY2020 Local Option expenditures

Neighborhood Improvements



Blitz on Blight



Special Investment Districts



Property Improvement Program


Neighborhood Matching Grants


Expanded Library Hours

$370,000 $278,000

Total Budget



Blitz on Blight

Local Option revenue in FY2020 funded the creation of a program called Blitz on Blight, an accelerated response to reported nuisance properties that property owners are unable to address themselves. This program is designed to work through the backlog of reported public nuisance structures throughout the city that have reached the point of needing to be demolished. Demolition is sometimes a cost prohibitive option to address neglectful, absentee property owners.

Through Local Option support and the launch of this program, the City has a goal of demolishing 100 unsafe structures per year over the next three-to-five years without taking ownership of the properties.

• Completed Demolitions
$1,422,870 in total estimated demolition costs, $700,000 supported by Local Option funding.

In 2019 and the first half of 2020, more than 120 inspections have been completed for reported nuisance properties, and
56 demolitions at an estimated total cost of $1,422,870 have been completed. The $700,000 of budgeted Local Option revenue was used to help accelerate the City’s existing process for completing an inspection, filing City Council supported legal action, obtaining a court decree, providing needs-based extensions, and finally, tasking the City’s Engineering Department to work with contractors to safely remove unsafe structures in neighborhoods throughout Des Moines. After an unsafe structure is demolished and debris is cleared, property owners maintain ownership of the property to either sell to an interested developer or seek local support to redevelop the property themselves.

The following is a complete list as of July 30, 2020 of unsafe structures demolished through the Blitz on Blight program:

  • 1013 E. 8th Street
  • 106 E. 29th Court
  • 1063 17th Street
  • 1108 13th Street
  • 1126 11th Street
  • 1155 Enos Avenue
  • 1160 19th Street
  • 1180 13th Street
  • 1228 Dixon Street
  • 1315 Mondamin Avenue
  • 1319 12th Street
  • 1339 12th Street
  • 1400 E. 14th Street
  • 141 S.E. 33rd Street
  • 1423 E. 9th Street
  • 1538 MLK Jr. Parkway
  • 1547 4th Street
  • 1552 E. 36th Street
  • 1630 E. Walnut Street
  • 1700 56th Street
  • 1714 Jefferson Avenue
  • 1746 Walker Street
  • 1840 Logan Avenue
  • 1915 E. 38th Court
  • 1916 Washington Avenue
  • 1937 Courtland Drive
  • 1974 Indianola Avenue
  • 2007 Des Moines Street
  • 2009 Washington Avenue
  • 2032 Capitol Avenue
  • 2101 Mondamin Avenue
  • 2110 E. Walnut Street
  • 2202 E. 14th Street
  • 229 S.E. 28th Street
  • 2401 E. Walnut Street
  • 2409 E. Grand Avenue
  • 2521 Lyon Street
  • 3125 6th Avenue
  • 3130 6th Avenue
  • 3135 7th Street
  • 3230 E. Clinton Avenue
  • 3314 E. 7th Street
  • 352 Forest Avenue
  • 3612 MLK Jr. Parkway
  • 3636 Kinsey Avenue
  • 37 E. Gray Street
  • 3933 11th Street
  • 408 Titus Avenue
  • 4110 S.W. 5th Street
  • 4146 E. 30th Street
  • 4601 S.W. 8th Street
  • 5013 S.W. 6th Street
  • 5708 S.W. 2nd Street
  • 808 S.E. 10th Street
  • 913 Douglas Avenue
  • 920 28th Street

With the support of the City’s Information Technology Department, residents can follow the status of the reports the City has received through an interactive dashboard at The dashboard includes a frequently updated  summary of the total demolitions completed and estimated cost the City has spent to complete the process. In addition to a list of recent demolitions, you can track how many reported properties are in each stage of the program’s process, including the number of rehabilitation agreements reached. 

Special Investment Districts

This mandated Local Option priority is to provide funding for the implementation of improvements identified in small area plans, developed as part of the Neighborhood Revitalization Program. Special Investment Districts (SIDs) are selected by City Council, and this funding is designated to support the acquisition, demolition, rehabilitation/repair or new construction of housing, as well as the acquisition and holding costs associated with redevelopment. This program also supports lending programs and related services for the purpose of residential or commercial property improvement and neighborhood beautification or community building projects.

This year using Local Option revenue, the City of Des Moines partnered with Polk County to establish Invest DSM, a unique collaboration to bring a renewed commitment to neighborhood revitalization throughout Des Moines.

Invest DSM is dedicated to working in each of the City’s four wards, piloting strategies in four SIDs. The team cultivates partnerships between residents, homeowners, potential homeowners, developers, contractors, business owners and commercial property owners to invest in strengthening middle market neighborhoods.

The goal of the program is to learn how specific investments impact the increase of equity of residents within these districts and apply successful strategies to additional areas of Des Moines that would benefit from focused investment.

These are the initial Special Investment Districts that City Council directed Invest DSM to start their work:

Oak Park / Highland Park
Historic neighborhood business district surrounded by well-built homes plus beautiful McHenry Park overlooking the river — a great value close to downtown employment and amenities.

Drake Area
Beautiful historic homes on stately boulevards in an eclectic and diverse neighborhood, home to Drake University, friendly neighbors, and unique community events.

Franklin Area
Charming homes on tree-lined streets with friendly neighbors; top-rated schools in a convenient location; walk and bike to neighborhood icons.

Columbus Park
Little Italy on the rivers, spectacular views of downtown, affordable single-family homes plus upscale, modern apartments.

Following the first Invest DSM board meeting on July 24, 2019, the organization met twice with steering committees from all four SIDs, as well as launched a holiday challenge grant, a block challenge program, a homeowner renovation program and began development of a single-family developer program.

In Oak Park/Highland Park, the organization assisted with funding the renovation of the 622 Euclid Apartment, rehabilitated three properties and demolished two, supported seven projects as part of the block challenge program, and assisted with developing the Hiland Park Bakery, Hiland Park Hardware Building, Chuck’s and The Slow Down Coffee Company.

In the Drake Area, the organization assisted with funding the renovation of 1115 35th Street, acquired one property for rehabilitation and supported 67 projects as part of the block challenge program.

In the Franklin Area, Invest DSM assisted with funding the renovation of 1446 47th Street, supported 49 projects through the block challenge program, planned work for two public art projects and supported a New Year’s neighborhood gathering at Snookie’s with more than 300 attendees.

In Columbus Park, the organization assisted with funding the acquisition of six properties for demolition and redevelopment, supported a resident-organized spring cleanup day and designed a new logo for the neighborhood.

Property Improvement Program

While City Council action on this program has been delayed until FY2021, Local Option revenue will be used to move this program forward. Once approved by City Council, this program will look at the exterior of all owner-occupied and commercial buildings throughout the city for exterior maintenance problems and work with property owners to address them.

The City plans to work with community businesses, faith-based organizations and other groups to establish needs-based support for those financially or otherwise unable to maintain the exterior of their property.

Neighborhood Matching Grant

This new program is designed to award small grants to neighborhood and community groups for improvement projects that build their leadership skills and help their neighborhood.

Matching financial support from the City is available to multiple neighbors that join together to invest in an improvement for their neighborhood. While no projects were brought forward and approved in FY2020, funds budgeted for this program will be designated in the FY2021 budget.

Expanded Library Hours

Local Option revenue helped remove a barrier for those that depend on services the Des Moines Public Library provides. Operating hours at all six DMPL branches were expanded, including service every day at Central Library and Franklin Avenue Library.

With COVID-19 preventing safe physical access to the libraries, the Local Option funds budgeted for this initiative were lowered by 25 percent for the time branches were unfortunately closed during the FY2020 fiscal year.

Once concerns over COVID-19 have been fully addressed, Local Option revenue will continue to be available to support expanded hours at all six of our library branches. Libraries provide Des Moines residents with important services, and we’ll continue to evaluate how to best continue to provide those services in a safe, limited capacity during this pandemic. DMPL has been able to focus on expanding its online and curbside pickup services and is looking forward to reopening public access to branches as soon as it is safe to do so.