Jun 24, 2022 - News

How Valley Junction is getting cool

Valley Junction

When you walk through Valley Junction's commercial district, you'll find a cat cafe on one side, a hipster record store on another and a pop culture-themed sausage shop.

  • Valley Junction, the oldest and original area of West Des Moines has always retained its own independent, eclectic vibe. But these days, it's less antique-shop and more young vibes.
  • Since 2016, WDM has been revitalizing the area as part of a master plan, mainly focusing on the commercial district. Now — it's extending to residential parts.

Driving the news: City officials announced plans on Wednesday to improve the surrounding, aging neighborhoods to help local residents and attract first-time homebuyers and young families to the area.

Why it matters: The area is home to some of the city's most affordable housing, but they also need work that can be difficult for homeowners to afford, like repairing foundations, West Des Moines Mayor Russ Trimble told Axios.

  • While the average household income for the city is $93K, it's only $58K in Valley Junction.
  • It is also the most ethnically-diverse part of the city with prominent Hispanic, African-American and Nepalese communities, said Clyde Evans, the city's economic development director.

State of play: West Des Moines is launching applications for three new housing initiatives on July 1 for the area between 1st Street on the east, Railroad Avenue on the south and Grand Avenue on the north and west.

Here are the three initiatives:

1. A home improvement program that can match up to $25,000 for homeowners to make exterior repairs.

  • While the median household income for the city is $93K, it's only $58K in Valley Junction.

2. A rental acquisition program where the city plans to purchase dilapidated, single-family homes up for rent and renovate them to sell to low-income homebuyers.

  • Renters make-up 56% of the housing units in Valley Junction, in comparison to 37% of the whole city.

3. A down payment loan and grant program to help families purchase homes.

What they're saying: Meredith Wells, the owner of MōMere in Valley Junction, said she and her husband looked at the area for their first home, but couldn't afford to renovate a home.

  • "We didn't have the financial means to put a lot of money into that," Wells said. "So having a program like this, I think is really awesome for first time buyers."

Yes, but: Don't expect the evolving area to be like Des Moines' East Village, said Steve Frevert, executive director of the Historic Valley Junction Foundation.

  • There's still a lot of beloved, older businesses, tons of history and the surrounding homes make it a more cozy, family-friendly spot.

The bottom line: "We need to make sure that we're not only focusing on new, shiny development out west, but that we're also focusing attention in Valley Junction and in other parts of the city that are aging," Trimble said.


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