Sep 6, 2022 - News

Des Moines has a 'digital twin' that drives development decisions

A digital version of Des Moines.
3D drawings were used in the last year to project the effect to views of the Capitol from Principal Park prior to the launch of ballpark renovations. Digital map courtesy of the city of Des Moines

Des Moines has mapped much of its downtown using 3D technology and is now using it to evaluate how proposed projects would change the city's skyline or block views of the Capitol.

What's happening: DSM's Geographic Information System (GIS) team is creating a "digital twin" of Des Moines using laser light technology to map topography, buildings and even light poles or trees.

  • The project received a special achievement award in July from Esri, an international supplier of geographic information system software.

Why it matters: As the technology advances, it could be used in virtually any area of DSM, Erin Olson-Douglas, the city's Development Services Director, said in a presentation to the city council last month.

State of play: The maps are already being used to project structure and tree shadows, helping to better plan public gardens and the locations of signs.

  • Private developers can show potential buyers the view from specific units even prior to a building's construction.

Catch up fast: DSM has for decades used a plan known as the "Capitol dominance overlay" to restrict building heights and protect downtown views.

  • A zoning update three years ago highlighted a need to better project how the overlay works so it doesn’t unnecessarily inhibit development, Olson-Douglas said.

Of note: Developers of the Market District are being required to submit digital plans for review using the program, Olson-Douglas said.

  • The district is part of a former industrial area near the East Village of downtown that is the target of a $750 million redevelopment planned by city and private developers.

What's next: Greater detail and more areas of the city are being added.

A map of Des Moines.
Digital map courtesy of the city of Des Moines
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