Draft Design Guidelines

Thank you, Historic West Des Moines, for your involvement and feedback to date.

Posted on this page you will find the latest updates regarding the Draft Design Guidelines for Historic West Des Moines. Please visit the News page, FAQ page, and subscribe below to view / receive ongoing email updates on the project and process.



Steering Committee Meeting 7/20

July 20th, 2022 · Steering Committee Meeting to Review Commercial Guidelines:

On Wednesday, July 20th at 4:30pm the Steering Committee met to review the draft guidelines for the Commercial District, located along Grand Avenue and 1st Street. The Commercial Guidelines were unanimously recommended by the Steering Committee, as presented. The Railroad Avenue RA-2 District was also re-discussed, and a motion made to reduce the height maximum from 3-stories to 2-stories, which passed with a vote of 7 yes, 5 no, and 2 abstained. Thank you to all who took part and shared!

Steering Committee Meeting 6/29

June 29th, 2022 · Steering Committee Meeting to Review Mixed Industrial Guidelines:

On Wednesday, June 29th at 4:30pm the Steering Committee met to review the draft guidelines for the Mixed Industrial District, which lies both north and south of Railroad Avenue – see areas highlighted in light blue and labeled “MI” on this map – click here

The Mixed Industrial District is a unique area that emerged as a focal point through community outreach and discussion. At prior meetings residents had voiced concerns about the look and feel of properties in this district, noting a need for improved design standards and property maintenance, especially in reference to the area north of Railroad Avenue and south of Holiday Park where industrial uses intermix with residential homes. Locals had also noted a desire for areas that can support incubator type businesses and creative maker spaces. Industrial areas and adaptive retrofits of warehouses are quite common for these types of uses.

Design guidelines are important to ensure future development is attractive and planned with the local community in mind. Recommendations focus on building design, form, landscaping and proper screening of trash, storage and service areas. Site design, connectivity, and public art to enhance and strengthen local character were also discussed. 

The guidelines for the Mixed Industrial District were unanimously recommended by the Steering Committee. Additional refinements focused on fencing, screening, public art and recommended materials will be incorporated based on the feedback provided. Thank you to all who took part and shared!

Steering Committee Meeting 6/1

June 1st, 2022 · Transitional District Moves Forward

At the meeting on June 1st the Steering Committee recommended approval of the Transitional District Design Guidelines (as presented) and the revised District Boundaries, which were scaled back significantly (~50%) from what was presented in April. Prior to the June 1st meeting, a detailed FAQ webpage and a series of brochures were shared and mailed to properties in the study area highlighting these amendments. The updated map is shown below.

Questions and discussion came up regarding setbacks for the Transitional District and what would be appropriate given the existing character of homes in the district. The team developed 3D renderings to visualize existing front setbacks and are recommending existing zoning front setback standards remain in place – click here to view the renderings as part of a news post.

Please refer to the FAQs posted here for factual information about the project and visit the documents page to view meeting presentations and materials.

Historic West Des Moines Design Districts Map

Steering Committee Meeting 4/20

April 20th, 2022 · Steering Committee Meeting Reviews Transitional District:

On April 20th, 2022, the Steering Committee met to review the Draft Design Guidelines for the Transitional District. The meeting included a recap of the Visual Preference Survey Findings, an overview of the Draft Guidelines, the purpose and importance of the District, use considerations, and boundaries. Considerable and thoughtful discussion took place by individuals present, including the Committee, many members of the public, residents, businesses, staff and consultants. Additional time was requested to consider the information shared and connect with local residents. The Steering Committee presentation may be viewed here. The Draft Design Guidelines for the Transitional District are available here – please refer to pages 41 to 53 and note this is a working draft.

Steering Committee Meeting 3/30

March 30th, 2022 · Railroad Avenue District Moves Forward:

On March 30th, 2022, following 3-hours of review and discussion, the Draft Design Guidelines for Railroad Avenue were recommended by the Steering Committee with a vote of 12-yes, 3-no. The Working Draft of the Design Guidelines, which includes the already approved Mixed Use Commercial District, will be updated to reflect the motions and added details pertaining to building heights and screening for sub-districts RA-1, RA-2, and RA-3, as recommended by the Committee. Meeting presentations are available via the Documents page. Due to timing, review of the Transitional District did not take place but will be the focus of the next steering committee meeting on April 20th at 4:30 pm.

Steering Committee Meeting 3/09

March 9th, 2022 · Steering Committee Reviews Railroad Avenue District:

A Steering Committee meeting was held on March 9th at 4:30pm to review updates to the Railroad Avenue District. In their review, the committee requested additional information on zoning, legal procedures, and development considerations to assist in their recommendation. Discussion on the Transitional District was tabled for the next meeting, which will be held at 4:30pm on March 30th. Meeting presentations are available via the Documents page. Videos of meetings and minutes will be shared via the City website once they are uploaded. Note that meeting minutes are typically posted following approval at the subsequent committee meeting.

City Council Meeting 2/21

February 21st, 2022 City Council Meeting · Approve Pages 1-40 of Guidelines:

On February 21st, 2022 pages 1-40 of the Design Guidelines (focused on the Mixed Use Commercial District) were reviewed and adopted by City Council with a vote of 5-yes, 0-no. The meeting took place at 5:30 pm at City Hall, 4200 Mills Civic Parkway. Council also passed the requested extension of the 6-month demolition moratorium for properties in the Mixed Use District, noting next steps will focus on (1) engaging a historic consultant to review select properties outside the district to determine what buildings could potentially qualify, and (2) seek incentives to encourage rehabilitation and discourage teardowns. Quotes by the Mayor and City Council included 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.”
“I am excited to get to a standard we can all point to.”

– Mayor + Council Quotes

Steering Committee Meeting 2/16

February 16th, 2022 · Steering Committee Reviews Draft Design Guidelines for Railroad Avenue:

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 focused on the following:

  • Appreciation of streetscape recommendations and leveraging the corridor as a gateway to Valley Junction. There is an ongoing desire, as is supported by the guidelines, with celebrating area history, railroad roots, and identity through design, arts, and wayfinding signage, noting: “we have a real unique opportunity here.”
  • The boundaries and depth of the Railroad Avenue District are being reviewed and diagrams created that show examples of how buildings, parking, screening, and fencing can be sited with respect to adjacent uses and residential, height/massing of buildings, and quality site design of new development.
  • The auto-orientated nature of the corridor is a prime focus with how to create pedestrian friendly spaces that are buffered from traffic, noise, etc.. The team is looking at expanding the language on integration of pedways (similar to the Mixed Use Commercial District) to create inviting spaces.
  • Streetscape recommendations will expand details on solid fencing and side-street bumpouts.
  • District areas that lie South of Railroad Avenue are being refined to include additional and slightly different guidelines on height, use types, and site design given the more remote location.
  • As was reiterated during review of the Mixed Use Commercial District, Draft Design Guidelines apply only to new construction or redevelopment and do not affect or flag changes to existing uses, homes, or buildings as they are today.

“This is our time to shine… We have a real unique opportunity here to draw people in and leverage Railroad Avenue as a gateway.”

– Steering Committee Member

Planning + Zoning Commission Meeting 2/14

February 14th, 2022 · Planning + Zoning Commission Recommend Pages 1-40 of Design Guidelines:

On February 14th, 2022 pages 1 – 40 of the Draft Design Guidelines, were recommended by the West Des Moines Planning + Zoning Commission with a vote of 4-yes, 0-no, 1-abstained. Comments by commissioners included:

  • “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.”
  • “Excellent report. I commend you on the process. Love the visuals; for us, those are so helpful.”

This Draft is identical to the one linked above but only includes pages 1-40.

Steering Committee Meeting 2/02

February 2nd, 2022 · Unanimous Recommendation by HWDM Steering Committee, Pages 1-40:

On February 2nd, 2022 pages 1 – 40 of the Draft Design Guidelines, were unanimously recommended by the Historic West Des Moines Steering Committee, which include:

  • Pages 1-18: Important background and introductory information on the purpose of the guidelines, how to use such, historical resources, a visual glossary, and the robust community engagement process and visual preference survey that informed the guidelines and recommendations.
  • Pages 19-40: Chapters 1A and 1B on Architectural and Streetscape Design Guidelines for the Mixed Use Commercial District. Click here to read the news update.

Clarification on Half-Story Building Heights: At the February 2nd, 2022 Steering Committee meeting, additional clarification was requested on height limitations of new development or additions that are adjacent to structures with half-stories; i.e. a 1.5 story residential home being the representative example. The draft guidelines currently state that new development shall not exceed 1-story over lowest adjacent primary structure. To further ensure context sensitivity of height of new buildings in the Mixed Use Commercial District, adjacent half-story buildings would be rounded down to the nearest whole number; i.e. 1.5 stories would be viewed as 1 story. This means new construction or additions cannot exceed 2 stories in height when adjacent to an existing 1.5 story building. The images below show updates to the Draft Guidelines that reflect these requested clarifications.

Thank you for your ongoing involvement! Stay tuned for more updates.