Feb 5, 2024 - Business

Reimagining downtown Des Moines' parking lots

A gif showing 111 east grand avenue in 2012 vs 2022

111 East Grand Ave. in Des Moines in 2012 vs 2022, where a new building houses Clyde's Fine Diner and Liz Lidgett Gallery and Design, among other businesses. Photos via Google Earth

Des Moines officials say they envision getting more unique development in downtown's business district by transforming underutilized surface parking lots, assistant city manager Matt Anderson tells Axios.

Why it matters: Parking lots decrease walkability and take up space that could be better used for commercial or public development.

State of play: 26% of downtown Des Moines' commercial business district is dedicated to surface parking lots, according to Parking Reform Network.

  • And surface parking lots have become the most appealing spots for downtown developers because they don't have to knock anything down, Anderson says.

Yes, but: Now, large surface lots owned by Wells Fargo on downtown's south side and others owned by Principal on the north side are underutilized, due to hybrid work.

What we're watching: Anderson says the city doesn't know when those lots will potentially be put up for sale, but there are already local developers ready to snatch them up.

  • A surface lot owned by the county south of the Polk County Courthouse is expected to be redeveloped in the future, though there is no timeline yet, Anderson says.
  • Expect the block to be redeveloped in a way that swings Court Avenue from a "drinking district to a well-rounded entertainment district," he says.

Flashback: The city purchased former car dealerships and empty lots in the East Village in the 2000s-2010s with the hopes of developing them into restaurants and hotels.

The bottom line: Those lots have since turned into venues like the AC Hotel, Zombie Burger, Scenic Route Bakery, RAYGUN and Clyde's Fine Diner — making East Village one of the most visited and walkable areas in Des Moines.


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