Historic Des Moines Neighborhood Plans To Halt DMU Project

DES MOINES, Iowa -- The solution seems simple on paper for Des Moines University.  They currently have 1,597 students, 346 employees, 220 daily patient visits but only 723 parking spaces.

"Imagine patients who come to the clinic with difficulty walking, they are diabetic or have other health issues and can't walk well.  Often they don't find parking or have to walk a long distance," said Mark Danes, DMU Chief Strategic Communications Officer.

It is the distance the additional forty-five proposed parking spaces would extend that nearby neighbors have a problem with.  South of the university's existing lot at 3200 Grand Avenue, into a wooded area that backs into the historic Greenwood Neighborhood in Des Moines.

"First of all, we don't want them to take any more of the wooded area.  There has been a long-standing agreement they wouldn't," exclaimed Dan Spellman, who has lived in the neighborhood for nearly two decades, "We need to show we are serious about preserving our neighborhood, the integrity of it."

It is an integrity of land that DMU says they own outright.  Danes said, "DMU owns twenty-four acres and we only occupy eleven of those acres."  DMU also wants to build a new generator.  "We have lost power twenty-six times as of this week, in the last ten years," said Danes.

Residents feel all that new construction would aggravate an already susceptible area, downhill from campus that is prone to severe flooding.  "Five or six times a year there will be blowout floods coming down," Spellman said.

The historic Greenwood Neighborhood Association's concerns were strong enough to lead the city plan and zoning commission to unanimously recommend that the city council deny DMU's  proposal.  "It is the only real spot we can add to the campus and we expect them to understand that.  We have the same vested interest in the neighborhood quality as they do," Danes said.  Spellman added, "We feel like they are gonna keep pushing until they get what they want and we are going to stand up against it."

A public forum was set for February 25th at the scheduled city council meeting.  DMU has requested a continuance until April 22nd.  A super majority of six council members siding with DMU's proposal will be needed to overturn the plan and zoning commission's recommendation.

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