Shifting skyline

We bundled up for the pre-dawn trip downtown, armed with coffee and hot chocolate, to catch a peek at the implosion of the Riverfront YMCA. Our family stood with the crowd of gawkers gathered across the riverbank, and my boy’s eyes grew so wide at the fireball and the sight of the building crumbling to the ground. The excitement lasted only a few seconds, but worth waking up for.


I’ve seen quite a bit of evolution in Des Moines’ urban landascape since I moved here in 2007 (most notably to me, the planting of the Pappajohn Sculpture Park), but for some reason this dramatic YMCA moment felt like a watershed we needed to witness. To be part of the before and after of our shifting skyline.


photo series via my friend Libby Crimmings 

If you’re into architecture and urban design, this is a fascinating time to be in the city, and there are plenty of opportunities to be part of the process. Huge projects, like the Waterworks Park “Change is in the Works” and smaller, neighborhood initiatives like the “Redefining Roosevelt” streetscape initiative we got a flyer on this week. The East Village is a colony of cranes these days, and ground just broke on the new Renzo Piano-designed Kum & Go headquarters. (All of this makes our drives home from school totally exciting for Emmett, who is big into construction sites.)


Let’s hear it for Des Moines! I’m curious: What new or upcoming development has you most excited about the future of our city? It could be brick-and-mortar, or programmatic. Leave a response in the comments and you could win one of these super cool Des Moines T-shirts from Hangry Hippos! Stacy recently launched a fun line and I’m excited to spread the word. I’ll pick a winner Monday, Oct. 12. (Hopefully I will have had a baby by then!)

P.S. Joe’s cousin’s wife, Jen, is part of this awesome “Transform Public Spaces” initiative in San Francisco that’s up for a Google Impact Challenge grant. Check out the amazing idea and give them a vote. It’s super easy; you don’t have to register or anything.



Filed under I love Des Moines

8 responses to “Shifting skyline

  1. Fun blog! Super excited to see if the Jazz club/parking garage/theater is going to happen! A lot to be pumped for in dsm.

  2. Sophia

    Excited about the Des Moines Metro Opera’s staging of Winterreise at the Des Moines Art Center!

  3. Larry

    I’m pumped for the first installation of public art by Art For Ankeny, which will be a David Dahlquist project! It will be a beacon for our city and our little metro skyline 🙂

  4. Barb

    I hope to watch Des Moines evolve into a truly age-friendly community, where wide “raceway” streets like MLK Jr. and E. 14th go on “road diets” to be more pedestrian-friendly; development projects allow for mixed-use facilities and mixed-generation affordable housing; and neighborhood progress and improvements let more people enjoy daily life without having to depend on having cars. “Age-friendly” means “friendly for ALL ages.”

  5. It’s such a fun time to raise a family in Des Moines! I’m excited for it to become more bike friendly. And, I miss writing with you! You have a way with words my dear, I love the image of a “colony of cranes”!

  6. I am so amazed has to how much the city is growing! I can’t believe how much has changed since the last time I was there. Reading your blog has made be miss DSM even more.

  7. Eric

    I’m most excited about the streetscaping project on 6th Ave because as downtown is kind of developing naturally today, we need to propel growth in neighborhood corridors just outside the core. This gives young people living options so they don’t have to flee to the burbs after downtown living. I hope to see the SE 6th and Union Park corridors do the same.

  8. aboundingabundance

    first off, who doesn’t love a good implosion?!!?
    One of my favorite things is to take a picnic to the sculpture garden by the central library and then meander through the BHG test garden on a Friday. It’s easy to feel lucky to be a DSM resident!

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