Don't Even THINK About It!Don't Even THINK About It!This fountain is located at the entrance to the Country Club Office Plaza in West Des Moines. Evidently the idea of fun doesn't sit well with their insurance company. The big brown sign on the fountain reads "NO TRESPASSING" in big bold helvetica.

This is a great example of how suburban developments use representational ideas (a fountain) designed to make people feel comfortable. When you drive past at 45 miles per hour, they often work as intended. A closer examination, however, can lead to the discovery of awkward conflicts.

What could be more inviting than a fountain on a 90 degree day? But.... place that fountain 15 feet from a six lane automobile thoroughfare and it looses a bit of appeal. A large sign shouting "NO TRESPASSING" takes away a little more appeal. Placing it between a fast food drive-thru and an automobile-oriented bank building kills whatever remaining appeal the fountain had.

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In an article published on July 10, 2008, the Des Moines Register claims that "More Iowans like suburban life". The article is based on updated Census estimates for 2007. In fact, an examination of the underlying data leads me to the opposite conclusion: More Iowans actually prefer living in central cities and towns.

Here are some reasons why.

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Sixth Avenue is a north-south thoroughfare forming the spine of the River Bend neighborhood. It runs more or less from downtown at the south to Interstate 80 (where it turns into NW 6th Drive). Along the way it strings together a variety of destinations including Mercy Medical Center and North High School as well as crossing I-235, University, and Euclid.

It is also, for the most part, underutilized and dreary, particularly for the pedestrian. Until now.

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Before diving in to the reasons the Des Moines downtown skywalk system should disappear, I'll first lay out the reason why it should stay: Iowa gets cold. It's no fun walking anywhere when the thermometer reads 10 degrees below zero, particularly if young children are involved!

That said, I think the skywalks are holding downtown back from a complete revitalization.

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Fountain at Downtown LibraryFountain at Downtown LibraryThe fountain outside the downtown branch of the Des Moines Public Library is an excellent example of a public amenity. Note the walls at multiple levels (perfect for sitting on or walking along) and the zero grade entry for accessibility. It is clearly designed to encourage passers-by to slip off their shoes and linger.

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