DES MOINES, Iowa -- Local nonprofit Urban Dreams has served Des Moines’ inner city since 1985, and new plans for an outdoor courtyard aim to give its community something more to be proud of.
"It’s here in a community that has been neglected for beautiful things for so long," said Executive Director Izaah Knox. To make the dream come true, Knox plans to demolish the vacant building next door to the north. "There will be grass, benches, seats and trees for shade," said Knox.
The space will also be ADA compliant and feature a stage for events and speaking engagements for some of the 30 or more events they put on each year. Knox said lately they have been very crowded for space. "When political candidates want to engage with our community to say why it’s important for people here, they can have a built stage and not a retro-fitted alley."
Dudley Mohammad is a Navy veteran who lives in the neighborhood and saw the plans for the first time Sunday. "It’s absolutely emotional. When I saw it, tears were welling up in my eyes," said Mohammad.
Mohammad says too often the area sees city leaders make big promises but not follow through. "So many times things are promised to us and that’s all it is," he said.
It is a promise the city is keeping, injecting around $8 million for the 6th Avenue Corridor Streetscape, which Urban Dreams is located on. "A streetscape is just a means to an end, to a destination. We need beautiful destinations on this avenue.
Knox says students taking the bus along the corridor can now have a better place to gather. "They take the bus down here almost every day and grab a sandwich. Now they can grab a sandwich and go eat in the courtyard. We will have internet for free and they can check out iPads and laptops and go to our courtyard to get their homework done," said Knox.
A mural completed by local artist Jordan Weber is currently on an area that will be demolished. Urban Dreams plans to repurpose the mural. Knox wants the community to know that 'Dream' is more than a five letter word. "It means there is more out there. There is more available," Knox said. It is truly a reality worth dreaming for. "It gives me the hope and the satisfaction that knowing dreams do come true and people do keep their word," said Muhammad.
Urban Dreams plans to use their own money for funding with the help from some donors. They hope to have the project completed as early as next summer.