Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Des Moines Reflections

I drove to Des Moines Saturday afternoon to meet up with some of the people from the AbsoluteDSM website and forums. The people who run the site aren't secretive about their identities, and many of us enjoyed the chance to put faces with screennames. One of the things that was interesting to me was the variety of people who attended. There was a group of people who are professionally involved in development, such as a city planner type person, real estate developers, property owners/rehabbers. There was also a number of people such as myself that don't work in the field, but who take an active interest in it. College students, a financial planner, an elementary school teacher, me, etc. Everyone there was interested in making their hometown, and home state, a better place to live.

We started off with a tour of some projects in the Drake area being done by one of the forum members and his wife. I think everyone there was extremely impressed with what they'd been able to accomplish. I heard someone say that they had renovated 10 homes in that neighborhood, and even moved a house from the Drake campus to an empty lot and rehabbed it. They also were planning to move 2 more houses in November to make way for a new Drake building. They'd built an attractive townhouse-style apartment building, a brick commercial/residential building that fit the surrounding block perfectly, and are currently in the process of renovating a historic dairy. More pictures of the tour, taken by someone with a real camera, can be found here.

After leaving the Drake neighborhood, which is known as Dogtown, we went to Raccoon River Brewery in downtown Des Moines. I drove past the Chipperfield library on the way, and its quite a sight lit up at night. The copper skin that's mostly opaque during the day becomes almost completely clear at night with the building's lights on. Even at 9:30pm on a Saturday, a crew was working to take down an old parking garage with a wrecking ball, but they knocked it off for the night around 10pm. Des Moines has really had a surge in downtown residential development, and more projects are still underway. Hopefully downtown Davenport can enjoy similar success over the next decade or two.

10 Comments:

At 10/04/2006 2:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It sounds like we can learn from the folks in Des Moines. In Davenport, the only people remotely promoting rehabs are those who support them for low income housing. We need to promote rehabs to revitalize, not to provide only low income housing. We must address our crime problem and our slum landlord problem at the same time, because the areas needing rehabs are in the same areas (sometimes the same homes) as bad rentals and in those bad rentals are bad people.

 
At 10/04/2006 3:48 PM, Blogger QuadCityImages said...

I agree that we need to do all of those things, but there are good people doing rehabs around here too. Ambrose Fulton is one of them.

 
At 10/04/2006 4:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Many of the Drake area rehabs are being used for student/low income housing. Not sure about QCI's acquaintences, but that's where most of the interest falls. Many of the rehab tax breaks are only applicable to income-generating properties and not owner-occupied residences. I think giving OO rehabs the same treatment as slumlord "rehabs" would be something everyone in the Davenport blog world could get behind.

 
At 10/04/2006 4:53 PM, Blogger QuadCityImages said...

Absolutely.

 
At 10/04/2006 5:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Des Moines has benefitted from many people who walk the walk when it comes to development and what they feel is good for their city. Not without controversey, you know well who calls the shots in Des Moines. Drake, the State Capital, and the financial industry are recognized as vital parts of Des Moines synergy. The Quad Cities could do well to find its own synergies among all the Cities.

 
At 10/04/2006 7:02 PM, Blogger pioneer98 said...

Davenport needs to do more to capitalize on the area around St. Ambrose. The campus has grown in size and number of students in recent years, but hasn't spread too much rehab/revitalization off-campus (yet).

 
At 10/04/2006 7:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The reason SAU hasn't spread the rehab gene around is because A. SAU owns some of that crap property and doesn't invest in it because B. they eventually will tear it down. B is also the reason owners nearby hesitate to put much money into their own properties knowing they'll need to fight for a fair price when SAU comes calling.

 
At 10/04/2006 8:20 PM, Blogger WindingHills said...

What about K's Merchandise closing:(

 
At 10/04/2006 8:37 PM, Anonymous DMRyan said...

Hello from Des Moines. Nice blog here QCI, and thanks for making the trip over to DSM last weekend.

I think the Quad Cities has a much larger historic building stock to chose to develop than Des Moines could ever muster, and that could pay off for downtown/city dwellers in the future. Des Moines benefits from high population growth and a wealthier white collar workforce, and a very organized business community making these developments an easier sell. It wasn't done overnight though, as the city has tried for large numbers of downtown residential for decades. There are now thousands of downtown units built, planned or currently existing. Things will slow down here as there is a glut of condo units on the market with the latest housing down turn. Downtown apartments seem to be going strong still, but DSM is off to one heck of a start in our downtown reniassance.

The Quad Cities is close enough to Chicago that transplants are probably used to living a more urban lifestyle. It takes some time to get some synergy built in the downtown housing market, but once it happens, look out. Look around at other metros your size or large for proof.

 
At 10/04/2006 9:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Our crime problem is out of control in the areas where the rehabs would occur. It is too large of a problem and an unaddressed problem, that it prevents people from wanting to rehab our homes here. It isn't worth it to people. We as a city need to take serioulsy our crime and slum property issues before we will get anyone to take rehabs serioulsy.

 

Post a Comment

<< Home