Rice Field Development

Ewing Land Development (http://ewingdevelopment.com) has purchased the hotly contested Rice field from the Des Moines Public School District for just under $200,000. They intend to develop a 44-unit senior housing facility on the site - this is a disappointing end to a divisive debate.

In order to fully realize the potential of this beautifully situated and eminently developable site, it should be occupied by relatively dense mixed-use residential and commercial. Given the images available on the Ewing web site, the building constructed will probably be best described as "suburban forgettable". Ultimately, as a single-use senior housing development, this project will represent a failure to plan for future expansion of the Beaverdale pedestrian commercial district.

Rice Field Senior Independent Living ProposalDMperspective's "Rice Field" Senior Independent Living Proposal (click for larger version)Here is what I would propose for the site: a dense building with three stories of independent senior living apartments over retail/restaurant built up to the corner at Beaver and Adams. A smaller retail store would occupy the northwest corner of the site on Beaver. Tucked at the back of the site would be a group of independent senior living duplexes.

Mixed-use senior housing is a perfect combination to enhance an existing pedestrian commercial district.

  • Independent seniors occupy the streets during the day at "off hours" from the working families that live in the surrounding neighborhood.
  • Seniors spend money at neighborhood businesses.
  • Retail use generates a variety of taxes.
  • An urban-styled building would extend the district and promote development of future transit options on Beaver.
  • A walkable, transit-connected neighborhood allows seniors to remain active even when they are no longer able to drive.
  • Pulling the parking to the interior of the site allows for a more pedestrian-friendly site plan.

The City can promote dense, pedestrian-friendly development through progressive form-based zoning - as long as it isn't allowed to be corrupted by anti-pedestrian Planned Developments (PUDs) as will be soon allowed on Ingersoll (more on this topic in the future).

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