DMPerspective's blog

As I was browsing Google Maps around Raccoon River Park, I came across a street called Scenic Vista Drive. What would you expect this to look like?

I picture a country road that winds its way across the ridges overlooking a river valley. Every so often, the tree cover breaks to reveal a slightly misty valley hundreds of feet below, where deer romp through wildflower fields. Imagine my surprise when Street View revealed this:

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Due to heavy flooding at Gray's Lake, Hy-Vee Triathlon race officials were forced find an alternate site for the 2008 event. A huge amount of effort went in to logistics and planning to locate an acceptable venue. The event ended up in West Des Moines.

The two-year-old Hy-Vee Triathlon has decided to make the suburban move permanent - starting and ending at Raccoon River Park. According to WHO-TV:

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I am saddened and angered that the Republican leaders have such disdain for people who dedicate their lives to making their communities safer, stronger, and better equipped to deal with changing economics.

Alaska Governor Sarah Palin said the following in her acceptance speech:

"I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a ‘community organizer,’ except that you have actual responsibilities."

Rudy Giuliani was aggressively dismissive of community organizing in his speech as well.

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Particularly in older Midwestern towns and cities, it is not uncommon to find rural anachronisms in the middle of otherwise urban settings.

East Grand Feed Mill Aerial Photo: Aerial photo of feed mill on East GrandEast Grand Feed Mill Aerial Photo: Aerial photo of feed mill on East Grand

Note that this facility is located in a residential neighborhood, where the train tracks cut through. The grain elevator was constructed in the early 1900s, as were most of the surrounding homes. It seems reasonable to believe that employees of the feed mill were able to live nearby and walk to work.

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Cars Can be Cool

03 Sep 2008

East Village Classic Car Show 2008East Village Classic Car Show 2008A couple weekends ago, we hopped over to the East Village to attend the first annual East Village Classic Car Show. The timing wasn't great (the kids are napping between 1 and 3 most afternoons), but they were more than willing to drag themselves out of their beds to see some "Hot Wheels".

An urban, pedestrian-oriented commercial district is the perfect place to host an event such as this.

  • Layering Uses - The street serves double-duty. On a lazy weekend afternoon, when there are not likely to be a lot of through traffic, it is easy to put up the barricades and reclaim the street for pedestrians.
  • Economic Multiplier - Since the retail storefronts are placed right up against the sidewalk, people attending the car show are more likely to pop in to one of the restaurants for a bite to eat or some quick shopping.
  • Mixed Use Accessibility - Residents in the surrounding apartments and condos are more likely to attend events right outside their doors.
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Larry Bradshaw of the Living Downtown Des Moines blog has posted video of a Sunday Morning stroll through the downtown Des Moines skywalk system. This stroll (sans people due to the morning hour) makes me even more sure of my earlier analysis of the skywalk system: it needs to go.

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Schools rank right up at the top of any respectable list of urban "issues".

When children, morals, and big money are thrown together in the political blender, the mixture is likely to explode every so often. It looks like this September 9th, there will be an explosion of sorts in Des Moines.

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Of the six major candidates for president, only Barack Obama has outlined a specific and coherent Urban Policy platform. While each of the other candidates and parties have individual policy proposals to address specific urban issues, it is plain to me that sustainable revitalization will take a coordinated approach.

From Obama's official campaign web site:

Today, government programs aimed at strengthening metropolitan areas are spread across the federal government with insufficient coordination or strategy. Worse, many federal programs inadvertently undermine cities and regions by encouraging inefficient and costly patterns of development and local competition.

For the most part, it appears that Obama's urban policy pulls together elements from his other policy statements. Some of them are more applicable than others and several policy suggestions in his Urban Policy proposal appear to actually promote suburban expansion(?).

But it's a start. The difference between Obama and the other candidates is that he is clearly thinking about urban policy as a comprehensive agenda. I am quite certain that this stems from his experience as an organizer in Chicago.

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The Retail Blank Wall

27 Aug 2008

Storefront Decoration at University Ave. Radio ShackStorefront Decoration at University Ave. Radio Shack (circa 2005) - Photo by Polk County Assessor's OfficeWith few exceptions, blank walls ruin the pedestrian experience. Blank walls make it difficult to discern what is happening inside the adjacent buildings, decrease the number of "eyes on the street", and promote an automobile-centric environment.

The Radio Shack at University and 42nd Street is an excellent example of how the location of the main entrance can have a huge impact on the urban character of a building.

The structure itself, is actually relatively urban. It is built up to a generous sidewalk, with the parking located in back. There is a small path between buildings that allows shoppers to easily make their way from their cars to the stores in the adjacent building. It maintains a good street edge and lines up with the adjacent building.

There is just one problem, but it's a killer: the main (only) public entry to the Radio Shack store is on the back corner of the building!

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The Des Moines Rehabbers Club seeks nominations from the public to name "Des Moines' Seven Most Endangered Buildings." Neighborhood groups, individuals, and businesses are encouraged to submit nominations for buildings in danger of demolition or neglect. Nomination forms are available for download at http://renovatedsm.com/node/305 and must be received by September 22, 2008.

Eligible buildings must be located within the city of Des Moines, must be threatened with active demolition or severe neglect, and should not be in a condition that is beyond the possibility of rehabilitation. Buildings may be residential or commercial, of any size and being used for any purpose. The list will be announced in mid-October.

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