New Housing, Retail Project Planned for Des Moines’ Market District Area

DES MOINES, Iowa -- The City of Des Moines unveiled some big plans Tuesday for an area known as the Market District.

The Market District is 260 acres and located south of the East Village. It is bordered by the Des Moines River, East Walnut Street, East Martin Luther King Parkway and East 14th Street. The plan includes apartments, condominiums, office and retail space and two parks. The city has some progressive, cutting-edge ideas for the area, but there are also some challenges.

Charles Stepp has lived on Des Moines` south side for nearly 70 years. "I like what the city has been doing in the past generation," said Stepp.

He really appreciates the expansion of bike lanes. He says he uses them daily, biking 20 miles a day.

Stepp likes the idea of putting even more bike lanes -- or what the city is now calling “cycle tracks” -- in the new Market District.

“We project 3,400 to 3,500 new housing units, so providing good access to bicycling infrastructure is a good way to promote higher levels of mobility and modes of transportation,” said Erin Olson-Douglas, Des Moines' director of economic development.

But that isn`t the only mode of transportation being discussed. Right now, the Market District lacks public transportation. That could change with the possible use of self-driving DART buses. Olson-Douglas says it`s one of several cutting-edge proposals.

"The plan really gives us the opportunity to act on some big ideas for sustainability, progressive urban development,” said Olson-Douglas.

But there are also some challenges, beginning with what would be called the Riverfront Park. It`s a two-block area located along the Des Moines River. It's an industrial area, so there are some environmental challenges.

“The source of the contamination in that area was an old coal tar plant long before MidAmerican’s occupation of that site," said Olson-Douglas.

The property is still owned by MidAmerican Energy, which according to a spokesperson, is removing and properly disposing of any impacted soil from the former facilities.

That will take some time and so will this plan, which is expected to take about 20 years to finish.

“It is in our community`s best interest to take that slow and take it as the Market is able to respond in a quality sort of way,” said Olson-Douglas.

Stepp likes the sound of that, not just for his generation but future generations, too.

“How`s that not a good thing? That`s why I say the city`s done great, and it will increase the tax base,” said Stepp.

Speaking of tax base, property tax revenues are expected to increase $111 million over the next 20 years. That would more than offset the necessary infrastructure upgrades, which will cost an estimated $52 million and will likely be paid by both the city and developers.

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