Axios Des Moines

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📈 It's Wednesday, welcome to the workweek peak!

🌤 Weather: Mostly sunny with a high of 68°.

🎂 Happy birthday to our Axios Des Moines member Julie Matternas!

Today's Smart Brevity™ count is 731 words — a 2.5-minute read.

1 big thing: Studying happiness

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

A new class at Iowa State University teaches students the science behind happiness and offers best practices for higher well-being.

Why it matters: Mental health, especially for teenagers and college students, was on the decline even before the pandemic.

  • More than 40% of teens said they persistently felt sad or hopeless in 2021, a CDC survey found.

State of play: 85 students signed up for the inaugural spring course that started in January, says Amie Zarling, a clinical psychologist and ISU professor who started the class.

  • The topic resonates because even if students aren't struggling themselves, they likely have a friend or loved one who's dealt with mental health challenges, she says.

The intrigue: Research shows that genetics factor into 40-50% of one's happiness, so everyone's temperament starts at a different base, Zarling says.

Yes, but: We can work on the other half of our well-being.

The bottom line: Giving ourselves affirmation and recognizing that suffering or negative thoughts are normal parts of life are among the topics Zarling covers.

  • "Our brains work by addition, not subtraction," she says.

What's next: The class will be offered again in the fall.

2. Bonus: 3 tips for well-being, per Zarling

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Savor the moment: If you are experiencing something positive, relish and "squeeze" it until its last drop, Zarling says. Being appreciative and taking the time to acknowledge all five of your senses can help you be more present.
  2. Find purpose: Finding meaning helps create a stable sense of well-being. Relationships with other people are a way to feel significance in life — though they should be well-balanced with time for yourself.
  3. Give self-compassion: This is the hardest practice, Zarling says. Our brains are wired to search for threats and negativity and turn on themselves when we mess up. Here are six researched steps to better self-compassion.

The big picture: People who have less compassion for themselves are also less likely to feel compassion for others, Zarling says.

  • And while some people feel like their inner critic helps motivate them, research shows that shame demotivates us, she says.

3. DSM loses chance to buy Wallace Elementary site

The former Wallace Elementary building is now demolished. Photo: Courtesy of the Polk County Assessor

A Christian college that owns Des Moines' former Wallace Elementary site recently paid a $242,000 judgment against the property.

Why it matters: The payoff blocked the city government's plan to purchase the property at a sheriff's sale and potentially redevelop the 3.3-acre site.

Catch up fast: Wallace closed about 17 years ago following the construction of nearby Carver Elementary.

  • California-based Olivet University purchased the former school in 2012 for $100,000 to convert it into a church and seminary but the plan never materialized.
  • The building was on DSM's public nuisance list for years before it was demolished about six years ago.

Driving the news: A sheriff's sale for the land was initially scheduled in January, but it was delayed because of bad weather.

  • Olivet recently paid the judgment, which was largely made up of demolition fees owed to the city.
  • The sale was canceled last week.

The intrigue: The property at 1401 E. 12th St., is assessed at $113,000, according to the Polk County Assessor.

  • Olivet did not respond to Axios' inquiries about its plans for the land.
  • The university is currently under federal investigation for alleged money laundering and labor trafficking, Newsweek reports.

4. The Ear: Catch up on the news

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

🏦 Estates of Waukee owners — an unfinished housing development for people 55+ — have filed for bankruptcy. (KCCI)

🥩 Expect a luxury experience at the new Prime & Providence steakhouse in WDM this spring. Entrées range from $40 to $300. (Wini's Food Stories)

🏳️‍🌈 It's near-impossible to find a lesbian bar in the U.S., but "Baewatch," a monthly lesbian/queer dance party, aims to fill in the gaps. (dsm Magazine)

✏️ Schools would be required to report licensed educators alleged of "grooming" or abusing students under a bill that unanimously passed the Iowa House. (Iowa Capital Dispatch)

🌷 Tulips are already blooming in Pella. (KCCI)

💵 DMACC approved raising its tuition next year to $193 per credit hour. (Iowa Capital Dispatch)

5. 1 pic to go: Walnut rubble

Walnut Street Bridge on Monday. Photo: Jason Clayworth/Axios

The deck of the Walnut Street Bridge is now in pieces.

Catch up fast: Demolition is part of a $19.1 million reconstruction project that began a few weeks ago and will continue through late 2026.

🚧 The bottom line: Get used to the downtown detours.

  • Portions of the Principal Riverwalk and the John Pat Dorrian Trail will also be closed until the project is completed.

💖 Thanks to everyone's input yesterday, we learned that Brock Purdy's wedding day started at Hotel Fort Des Moines.

  • The ceremony was at Plymouth Church and the reception was at The River Center.

This newsletter was copy edited by Lucia Maher.