Des Moines Busybodies Want Things to be One Way, But it's the Other Way


More than a decade ago Des Moines, IA city planners envisioned a not-so-happening area of the city as a world-class sculpture garden. Their vision had the garden surrounded by fancy developments and high-class restaurants that would augment the garden in a way that… Well, they knew what they wanted, allegedly. And a Subway–even one the owners just spent $450,000 to renovate from a warehouse into a sub shop–isn't it.

"I have nothing against Subway as an institution, but I think aesthetically it is entirely out of place," said Jeff Fleming, director of the Des Moines Art Center, which owns the sculptures in the park.

"A lot of people would rather see sit-down restaurants, rather than fast foods," in the area around the park, said Glenn Lyons, president of the Downtown Community Alliance. But, he added, "The thing that has people angry was not knowing it was coming, and the signage is pretty big and garish."

"It does nothing to enhance what we are trying to do as far as development in this area. This is the entry point to our city"…

So you want your entry point to look how you want, and to be dotted with private businesses that reflect that wish. That's a nice sentiment and all–and maybe Iowans can be forgiven for a moment for being uniquely prone to carrying the false belief that just because you build it they will come–but that's not how the world works.

More than a decade ago, when the city of Des Moines began acquiring property for the Western Gateway Park, the plan was to create a large downtown park that would encourage high-value developments on nearby property.

The idea worked to the extent that Nationwide Insurance, Wells Fargo and Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield located new corporate campuses near the eastern end of the park.

But now, four years after the park opened and two years after the Pappajohn family's sculpture collection was installed, development has largely stalled, particularly at the west end of the park.

Enter Subway. The big "for lease" sign on the buliding next to the Subway–along with the fact the builiding Subway occupies had been for sale or lease for years–would seem to be a tiny indicator that Des Moines city planners overreached. If anything, it may be that the $40-million sculpture garden is out of place.

More here from the Des Moines Register.

Baylen Linnekin is the director of Keep Food Legal, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving and increasing "culinary freedom," the right of all Americans to grow, sell, prepare and eat foods of their own choosing. To join or learn more about the group's activities, go hereTo follow Keep Food Legal on Twitter, go here; to follow Linnekin, go here.