Vision + Cooperation + Connectivity = Downtown revitalization in Des Moines, IA

Local investor Michael Gartner had the bold idea of connecting all of Des Moines, Iowa‘s major downtown projects. None would succeed unless they all did.

In the end it wasn’t so much about the money, it was about prompting people to think up ideas and to work together to get them done,” he says.

Principal, the insurance company, was taking the lead on a $70 million refurbishment of the downtown riverfront, to which it would ultimately contribute $18.5 million. The project, announced in 1999, featured a mile-long walking trail, two pedestrian bridges, an ice skating rink, and amphitheater, and took a decade to complete.

Making use of your natural amenities is just the fastest and easiest way to further a city’s development,” says Mary O’Keefe, who was in charge of Principal’s effort.

Meanwhile, the metro region’s chambers of commerce, downtown development groups, and major landholder alliances merged into a single superentity, the Greater Des Moines Partnership, which became an essential vehicle for region-wide cooperation.

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