Neighbors fear city $$ going to upscale areas in Des Moines

Residents on Des Moines' east side and near north side say they were left off a proposed "pilot program" that would focus on redevelopment of four areas-one in each of the wards of the city.

Jeff Woody told the council "lots of areas" need help.  Susan Wells asked, "How long before all of the city will be addressed?" 

The council was discussing a plan to target four areas for focus by a consultant, which would look at the properties that need help and recommend solutions:

1. Highland/Oak Park area, between concentrated in the vicinity of 12th Street to 5th Avenue, from Douglas Avenue to Ovid Avenue. This area chooses residential blocks that are adjacent to the business district located at the intersection of Euclid Avenue and 6th Avenue.

2.  Drake area, concentrated in the vicinity of 35th Street to 24th Street, from University Avenue to I-235. This area is directly to the south of Drake University‚Äôs campus and includes residential blocks adjacent to where private commercial development is occurring along University Avenue.

3.  48th Street and Franklin area, concentrated in the vicinity of 50th Street to 42nd Street, from Beavercrest Avenue to Forest Avenue. This area centers residential blocks around the redevelopment possibilities at the node located at 48th Street and Franklin Avenue.

4. Two Rivers area, concentrated in the vicinity of Indianola Road to SE 6th Street, from the river to Hartford Ave. This area has seen several recent multi-family developments by the private sector, as downtown continues to grow in its success. Many local, wellknown, family-owned businesses are located in this area as well.

((Here's the entire plan as proposed:

Councilwoman Linda Westergard was highly critical of the consultant in the project, czzbLLC, which drafted the report, saying she's had a lot of "anguish and heartburn" over the way that it's written. She says the consultant wrote that the areas selected either had or had the potential of offering middle to high income housing in the area.  

Councilman Joe Gatto says the southwest side of Des Moines has the worst house in the city.  He also said that the city needs to develop a way to turn on the plan if it doesn't work out.  

Mayor Frank Cownie told the audience that the goal of revitalization in the city should be to improve the tax valuation of properties. 

Councilman Chris Coleman said the project is like "R & D" (research and development) done by business, which tries different strategies to see which ones work.  

The council approved the plan, which spends over $440 thousand on a consultant to survey properties in each of the areas and make recommendations to solve blighted conditions in each.

While the plan gives city staff the ability to redesign the Neighborhood Revitalization Program, council members were quick to say the plan doesn't do away with the city's Neighborhood Revitalization Board or any of the neighborhood organizations.

City staff pledged to work with those groups on any changes to the current plan.


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