Design Guidelines: The Process So Far & 3/30 Meeting Reminder

Howdy, Historic West Des Moines! A reminder that the next Steering Committee meeting will take place in just over a week on Wednesday, March 30th. The evening will focus on continuing our review of the Railroad Avenue District, seeking a motion / recommendation, and beginning review of the Transitional District. The meeting will begin at 4:30 pm and take place at the Human Services Building, 139 6th Street with virtual participation available.

Community Engagement Timeline: Fall 2021 – Spring 2022

We love seeing new folks and faces engaging and sharing as part of this process! For those who are new, welcome. A recap with resource links is provided below to help showcase a timeline of community process and the extensive engagement that has brought us to this point. Please take a slow click-worthy scroll through the information below.

September 2021 · Mind Mapping Session

On September 15th, 2021 a mind mapping session was held with steering committee members to discuss and hone in on the value and meaning of community character in Historic West Des Moines. As was poignantly shared by members of the committee:

“Historic West Des Moines is eclectic, endearing, and inviting — a destination to go and gather, a place to call “home”. Walkable, comfortable, and compact, it has evolved to reflect both diversity and commonality, while celebrating a richness of character that tells our story and reflects our railroad roots.”

October 2021 · Community Character Poll

To generate additional input on community character from residents, business, and stakeholders, a Community Character Poll was shared in October of 2021 that confirmed the vibrant mix of shops, historic character, and community events in Historic West Des Moines as the biggest contributors to fostering positive community character.

November 2021 · Neighborhood Sessions, Merchant Breakfast + Community Workshop

In early November, 2021, neighborhood meetings were held with Friends of Valley Junction, Valley Junction Residential Association, and the Historic WDM Valley Junction Neighborhood Association to connect with residents and hear their concerns, visions, and feedback. A merchant breakfast with local businesses in addition to a Community Workshop was held later that month on Wednesday, November 17th, 2021. Both events included an overview of main street case studies, success strategies, group discussion and reporting back. Information highlighted how other historic Midwest towns are activating spaces, curating experiences, and celebrating their people, places, and heritage. Tons of great feedback was shared by a multitude of residents, businesses, and stakeholders!

December 2021 · Virtual Design Workshop + Visual Preference Survey

In December of 2021 a Virtual Design Workshop and Visual Preference Survey took place that engaged 400+ folks as part of the workshop, 300+ respondents as part of the survey, and provided the team with over 600+ comments. Input received focused on the Mixed Use Commercial District (approved), Railroad Avenue District (currently under review), and Transitional District (not yet reviewed). All of this feedback was thoroughly discussed and summarized in early January on 2022 in advance of preparing the Draft Design Guidelines for each of the three districts. The outpouring of thoughtful comments was impressive and we are so grateful for all who shared!

January 2022 · Steering Committee + Community Meetings

In early January 2022 the Steering Committee met on back to back nights to thoughtfully and thoroughly review and discuss the survey feedback and consensus for each design category. Over those two days, the committee and many residents / businesses / stakeholders who attended, added context and refinement to the design direction and intent. Together, district boundaries were outlined and design and zoning considerations finessed. All of this feedback was applied, in concert with the engagement findings to date, to develop the first set of Draft Design Guidelines, which were presented on January 26th, 2022.

February 2022 · Draft Guidelines Part 1: Presented, Revised, Unanimously Recommended

On February 2nd, 2022, following a detailed presentation, discussion, and Q+A from the public, the Steering Committee unanimously recommended pages 1-40 of the Draft Design Guidelines, which focused on the Mixed Use Commercial District.

2/14 & 2/21 Design Guidelines Part 1: Recommended by Planning and Zoning Commission, Adopted by City Council

On February 14th, 2022, the Planning and Zoning Commission enthusiastically recommended pages 1-40, which were adopted unanimously by City Council on February 21st. Comments by the Commission and Council noted the following:

  • “This is the most clapping ever had in a City Council meeting.”
  • “These are really going to help us moving forward.”
  • “A lot of people put a lot of time into this, it’s been a great process.”
  • “Excellent report. I commend you on the process. Love the visuals; for us those are so helpful.”
  • “Hats off to Teska, the team, steering committee, and all who attended the meetings… so many did. It was a pleasure to serve on the committee… a very good experience.”
  • “The HWDM Steering Committee reflects a great diversity of voices. Respect of each others’ perspectives and viewpoints is essential.”
  • “I am excited to get to a standard we can all point to.”

2/16 Review of Railroad Avenue District Begins

On February 16th, 2022 the Draft Design Guidelines for Railroad Avenue were reviewed by the Steering Committee. The general direction of the Draft Guidelines for Railroad Avenue were well received, with comments and next steps focusing on:

  • Appreciation of streetscape recommendations and celebrating area history/railroad roots;
  • Review of the boundaries and depth of the Railroad Avenue District;
  • Desire to create pedestrian friendly spaces buffered from traffic and noise;
  • Streetscape recommendations that include solid fencing and side-street bumpouts;
  • Areas South of Railroad Avenue to reflect slightly different guidelines given more remote location.

3/9 Review of Railroad Avenue District Continues

On March 9th, 2022 additional information, renderings, and sub-districts for Railroad Avenue were presented per requests at the 2/16 meeting, for review and discussion, including:

  • diagrams showcasing opaque fencing recommendations, paired with landscaping to buffer and screen uses on Railroad Avenue from adjacent residential uses;
  • expanded recommendations for pedestrian areas, plazas, patios, enhanced spaces to eat and dine buffered from traffic, as well as murals that celebrate history, diversity, and Railroad Roots / culture;
  • diagrams showing how developments could realistically reflect guidelines with respect to site design, land uses, parking, architecture, and pedestrian areas;
  • height considerations for varying sub-districts;

The steering committee requested additional information on existing conditions and policies, as well as additional height renderings to review prior to making a motion. The presentation from that meeting is available here.

And that brings us to present day!

Next week’s 3/30 Steering Committee meeting will showcase example renderings South of Railroad to help determine what heights are appropriate in reference to existing conditions and developments, along with additional information to facilitate review and recommendation for areas north of Railroad Avenue. The meeting will begin at 4:30 pm and take place at the Human Services Building, 139 6th Street with virtual participation available.

Railroad Avenue District

Below is a summary of the extensive input shared through the Community Visual Preference Survey for the Railroad Avenue District. This consensus provides the foundation and direction from which the draft design guidelines emerged.