Local Government

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

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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.

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  1. You know what’s a really nice sculpture garden? The Fredrik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids. You know who paid for it? Fredrik G.H. Fucking Meijer.
    RIP, Fred.

    1. “…the Pappajohn family’s sculpture collection was installed”
      _

      1. “the city of Des Moines began acquiring property for the Western Gateway Park”

        1. He can barely write… is it any surprise he can’t read?

          1. peeple choose 2 live in the des mones wich mean they {VOLENTARILLY] pay taxs there

          2. wonder who paid for the papajohn’s art collection ? hummmm….who could that be…?

            1. So if someone steals someone else’s land and house, it’s all okay if they paid for their furniture that they moved in?

              1. missed the point im afraid. i responded to CN’s initial post.

        2. Pappajohn family supplied the sculptures the city paid for the park and used emminent domain on a lot of apartments and busninesses to do so.

    2. For the cold wastelands of West Michigan, it’s also a nice place to visit during those awful January/February months. The greenhouse!

      I met Fred Meijer – oh, 15 years ago – and he was quite the nice gentleman. He gave tons of money to heart/medical research.

  2. 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.

    What are the odds those projects were given some form of sweetheart tax treatment as in “incentive” to locate there?

    And, of course, the people who think nice sit-down restaurants are “preferable” would never for a moment risk their own money to test their theory regarding the actually profitability of such an enterprise.

    1. The odds are probably over 100%. Each of the 3 business mentioned is a fractional-reserve financial entity.

      1. Each of the 3 business mentioned is a fractional-reserve financial entity.

        OK, Wells Fargo, sure, its a bank, we have fractional reserve banking. But life and health insurance? I don’t get it.

    2. Those corporations did recieve large tax incentives to stay in the downtown area instead of moving to the suburbs where land is cheaper.

      The sculpture park is very nice, but the city shouldn’t have spent the money on it. I and most other employees who work in the area are happy that more food choices are available for lunch. I know that some very powerful people wanted that buliding where the Subway is located and the owner refused. Makes me wonder if that isn’t main issue here.

  3. Who the fuck goes to Des Moines to look at sculpture gardens. And if the park is in the middle of your city it’s not a fucking “gateway”.

    1. Who the fuck goes to Des Moines to look at sculpture gardens voluntarily.

      What’s Iowa an acronym for?

      1. In Other Words, Assholes?

    2. Forget about the location, they can’t even figure out that a gateway and a destination are 2 different things.

    3. I fucking think you make a good fucking point. Also, have you ever fucking noticed how fucking fat Iowans are?

      1. Lighten up there, big fellow. The park is meant to mark the transition into the central business district, not be a visitor’s center in the interstate.

      2. Hey, I only used fucking once. That’s like a record for me or something.

  4. “It’s a horse. Made from exhaust pipes. What will they think of next?”

    1. As a recent transplant to Iowa I would have to say that the standard definition of art here is rusty, twisted, metal sculptures. Must be a lot of scrap metal to repurpose.

      1. I really like scrap metal sculpture.

        1. Then this one must be for you! Ignore the one farther down, it was supposed to go here.

  5. And what is uglier?…the signs or the art? All in the eye of the beholder. I would bet a lot more people benefit from the Subway than the art in the park. What about the mismatched streetlight poles? The overhead power lines?

  6. They wanted a fancy “sit-down’ restaurant. Like an Appleby’s.

  7. Jeff Fleming, director of the Des Moines Art Center, which owns the sculptures in the park.

    Tell me, Jeff, do you own the property across the street? If not, then you don’t get to decide what it gets used for, you fucking commie hick.

    1. bcause expressing personal opinions is soo commie

      1. It is if it’s from a commie.

        1. the communtee has a [RITE] to decide busness stadnards go to somalla if u want macdonald on avery cornr

          1. I can’t tell when it’s a spoof anymore with orrin. He’s possibly the dumbest and most persistent troll I’ve ever encountered. At least rather is sort of endearing in a batshit insane kind of way.

            1. no that wsa old mux sppofoing me a gain

            2. doesnt matter destrudo cause the spoofs fail anyway

              1. Exactly. That’s why we can’t tell which comments are you failing and which ones are the spoofs.

                1. wasnt talking to you moron

                  1. derp de derpity derp derp

  8. A lot of people would rather see sit-down restaurants

    What the hell does he think all those booths are there for?

    1. Not for naked people to sit on.

    2. Sounds like a lot of people wouldn’t rather eat at sit-down restaurants.

    3. Then Subway will go out of business and leave.

  9. It has a vegan “restaurant”, a Mediterranean cafe, a cavernous contemporary American place imaginatively named “Americana” and a Starbucks.

    Yes, Subway really lowers the tone.

    1. Subway has veggie only sammiches too!

    2. Icky poor people eat at Subway, so naturally Jeff Fleming wants them kept far away.

    3. There is a Jimmy John’s a block from the Subway directly across the park. Although, it is inside the Nationwide building so the exterior is more pleasing to the art director I guess.

    4. Man, this article is making me jones for some Subway. Unfortunately, I’m stuck in the middle of fucking nowhere, and the nearest one is 70 miles away.

      Fuck.

    1. Don’t come a knockin’ if the….Oh crap, this thing is always rockin’!

  10. A sculpture park in Des Moines is like a boob job on Terry Schaivo. Not only does it not make the subject more inviting, it wastes money by not treating the actual problem.

  11. Why does all contemporary public art suck so bad? If there is better evidence of our decline as a civilization it is the decline of public art. A hundred and twenty years ago we were doing things like the Shaw Memorial. Now we make horses out of exhaust pipes.

    1. The Shaw Memorial is just awesome. I’ve only been to Boston about 4 or 5 times. I always go by to see it. There is a replica in the Smithsonian by the way.

    2. Why does all contemporary public art suck so bad?

      I think Parks & Rec covered this in the Camel episode.

    3. Abstract art should be encouraged because its meaning can be changed over time. It facilitates the rewriting of history to help the vanguard usher in the new era of mankind’s glorious communist future. It’s harder to convince people that a realist sculpture of Lewis & Clark is really a sculpture of toiling proles exploited by evil capitalist taskmasters.

      1. harder, but not impossible

        “Lewis and Clark were driven west when their homes were forclosed on my evil banks…”, there, I got you started.

    4. Why does all contemporary public art suck so bad?

      I think its just Sturgeon’s Law – 80% of is crap, but its crap that’s in your face because its “public” art, so you notice it.

      Some of it, I don’t mind.

  12. Is Iowa a nice place? Is it real? I honestly have never met someone from there.

    1. Yes, it is a very nice place. Born and raised in Des Moines – a very nice city with, incidentally, a great Art Center. Haven’t lived there in 40yrs and never wanted to go back. But it is the classic “great place to be from“.

      1. Current resident. Brutally cold winters. Steamy hot summers. Soggy wet springs. But Autumn is glorius.

        Corruption in government is limited to the occasionally old biddy that misdirects 20 or 30 grand from the public accounts of a small town into her own bank account.

        There are much worse places to be.

        1. Heh, well I wasn’t thinking about the weather when I responded – and, he didn’t ask what was wrong with it. I always tell people that the weather in Iowa is absolutely terrible…but that there are three weeks in the fall when there is no finer place to be.

          1. I moved away and came back — plan to stay until I die. My kids can plant me in the corn field behind my property and then fight over the house.

            1. +10 poetries

  13. Nationwide Insurance, Wells Fargo and Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield? Sounds like there are alot of “worker bees” coming out of those offices at lunchtime. I bet they appreciate a place they can get a decent sammich for $5 in under an hour. If Jeff Fleming wants something “high end” across the street, he should open his own fucking restaurant. Note to Fleming: do some market research before you open your own fucking restaurant, douchebag!

    1. $450K is a lot of money to open a subway. Something tells me that someone did do that market research and figured out a Subway is a license to print money.

      1. And I bet the research also showed that a $1 million, fancy, sit-down restaurant would be tits up in six months. People with money invest their money where they can make even more money. Something that Fleming just doesn’t get, because he is handed his money from the City of Des Moines, which forcibly removes it from the citizens of Des Moines.

    2. THe only problem is if Subway does their usual schtick then they’ll only have 2 people working the counter during the lunch rush.

      Few things are more fun than watching the guy ahead of you pay for his sandwich and then the cashier goes back to putting vegetables on the next 10 orders before you get to pay.

      And Subway’s always had a disconnect between the way the company intended the sandwiches to be made and the way the clerks actually make them. Cut up the pressed “chicken” meat patty for Christ’s sake.

  14. Great The Wire reference in the title there. (Marlo)

    1. It’s not the first from Mr. Linnekin

  15. The best works of art in Des Moines are the 19th century murals in the State Capitol. The sculpture garden and the Art Center is all modern junk.

  16. Those sculptures suck ass. Des Moines is a shithole. Iowa is a cultural armpit. Actually in that picture, aside from the closer lightpoles, the Subway might be the only thing thats not a total fuckin eyesore.

  17. What’s the best thing to come out of Iowa?

    An empty bus!

  18. Why none of these city “planners” were capable of thinking ahead and proposing the proper ordinances to bring about their vision (restricting the size of signs, dictating acceptable business facades, rezoning, etc) is beyond me. If you are going to plan a city (which is another argument entirely) then you might as well do it right instead of flushing $40 million down the toilet in the hopes that others will be inspired to comply with your vision.

    1. “why won’t these fucking peasants be inspired by all of their money I wasted?!RAARRGGHGH!!!!”

  19. Point of clarification: The artwork itself within the park is valued at over $40 million and was DONATED to the city. I’m not sure how anyone could say a beautiful, world-class sculpture park that provides a relaxing green space for our community, not to mention worldwide recognition, is ‘out of place’. The owner of the building had a right to sell it to whomever he chose, but we all should recognize and appreciate how much work and effort has gone into revitalizing the Western Gateway. To all of you uniformed haters: Des Moines is a wonderful city and was ranked #1 for Young Professionals by Forbes. Our Arts Festival is ranked #7 in the country, beating out Chicago, Minneapolis, and all cities in NY. We are also home to the World Food Prize. Click here for more national rankings of Des Moines and Iowa: http://bit.ly/t6mSqP. As far as Jeff Fleming and the Pappajohns go – maybe you should ask yourself what you are actually doing for your community before pinning your hate of ‘the man’ on those who continually work hard for the underdog. Neither of these people were born rich, so get over it. John Pappajohn immigrated to the US when he was 9 years old, lost his father at age 16, and worked his way through college. Learn about that here: http://www.pappajohn.com/index.cfm?nodeID=24424 Educate yourselves before making uninformed, petty comments.

    1. Or you could care about something that’s not art.

      1. Why shouldn’t I care about art? And, of course I care about more than just art.

        1. I’m not the one trying to say having art makes it a good place to live.

          Des Moines is a wonderful city and was ranked #1 for Young Professionals by Forbes. Our Arts Festival is ranked #7 in the country, beating out Chicago, Minneapolis, and all cities in NY.

          Yeah, that’s how this young professional defines a good place to live: Art festivals.

          1. yep, that’s what i meant.

    2. Poor Des Moines. Always trying to get out of Dubuque’s shadow.

      1. Speaking of Dubuque, if you like rickety old funiculars (and who doesn’t), Dubuque’s Fourth Street Elevator is a beaut.

        1. I think funiculars, cog railways, aerial cable godolas, and the rare actual elevator accessible by a long tunnel in a hillside are fucking awesome. Although they should all be private sector businesses.

    3. Holy crap. Leslie Knope is a real person.

      1. Holy crap. Leslie Knope is a real person.

        This, right here, is funny.

    4. Hey Des Moines Resident. Here is some clarification so you fully understand the complaints of the Reason commentariat.

      The artwork itself within the park is valued at over $40 million and was DONATED to the city.

      The Poppajohns donating their private artwork to the city is awesome. The city using eminent domain to confiscate private property to build a park is not awesome.

      The owner of the building had a right to sell it to whomever he chose, but we all should recognize and appreciate how much work and effort has gone into revitalizing the Western Gateway.

      The owner had a right to sell the property, hooray to the new owner for improving the property and making money. All other “revitalization” of the Western Gateway should be done the same way: private interests trying to create value through entrepreneurial activity. That activity might be a Subway, a record store, a CPA firm, or a high end restaurant. It should be up to the owner of the property, not the city.

      To all of you uniformed haters…

      A common theme on these boards is insulting the region of topic. It’s mostly good natured, intended for cynically humorous fun. You should see how Florida, Texas, California, and especially Michigan are treated around here.

      As far as Jeff Fleming and the Pappajohns go – maybe you should ask yourself what you are actually doing for your community before pinning your hate of ‘the man’ on those who continually work hard for the underdog. Neither of these people were born rich, so get over it.

      Mr. Pappajohn embodies the American Dream. Through his private efforts, he has created enormous wealth, and he has been generous with his philanthropy. Awesome. Mr. Fleming, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to be “working hard for the underdog”. Instead, he seems to be upset that a private business owner (the underdog) has chosen to put a Subway across from the park. If Fleming wanted to help the underdog, he would go across the street and by an Italian BMT. Again, the Reason commentariat applauds Pappajohn for creating wealth through private investment, a real self made man. Fleming has benefited from the philanthropy of Pappajohn, and the Des Moines tax payer. Those are two very different stories.

      Well, there you have it. I hoped that helped to clarify the criticisms that originally offended you in the comments.

      1. El G., why do you hate art?

        1. Can’t speak for him, but because it’s useless and boring.

      2. El Goodo –
        I was responding more to the general thought of how an art space is seen as a waste, people hating on my city, and bashing good people.

        I’m with you on most of this. I agree that it should be left up to private interests to decide what they do with businesses in the area. Did you see the space before? It was sketchy.

        As far as the writing sounding like the space is full of upity restaurants and businesses, not sure where they are getting that. I can think of only one restaurant in the area that could be said to be ‘upity or fancy’ and even their lunches are well under $15.

        You clearly do not understand Jeff Fleming’s role at the Art Center, a non-profit with non-profit salaries, or in the community. Why do you think Fleming has directly benefited from the Pappajohns? The community has. The Art Center as a museum has, but that has nothing to do with Fleming’s personal finances. Fleming hasn’t benefited from the tax payers any more than anyone else working at a non-profit or anywhere else. He doesn’t like the signs, not a big deal. It was the city’s choice to use eminent domain. Blame them.

        1. Thanks for the clarification. I now see that Fleming works for Des Moines Art Center, a private non-profit organization, that owns and curates the sculptures in the park. My inital reading of the article was that the Art Center was a department of the city of Des Moines. Sorry Mr. Fleming! My bad.

          1. I suspect any distinction between the Art Center and a department of the city government is purely notional and cosmetic.

    5. “ranked #1 for Young Professionals by Forbes”

      That’s like a big indication for me to stay away.

      “As far as Jeff Fleming and the Pappajohns go – maybe you should ask yourself what you are actually doing for your community before pinning your hate of ‘the man'”

      Are you even aware of what the complaint is? They are trying to impose their “vision” on private property owners, by force.

  20. Forget the Subway. At least based on the photo, that sculpture garden doesn’t look like an inviting place to spend any time. Hell, it doesn’t even look very garden-like. It looks like a grassy lot that you cut through on your way to somewhere else.

    1. I know; it needs trees, etc. It should be a park, with lots of sculpture. Its supposed to be a sculpture park, not a sculpture field.

  21. I had to spend some time in Des Moines, and will be heading back then week after next. Some libruhl friends are telling me I *must* visit the sculpture park. I think I will go have a Subway sandwich instead.

    1. Yeah, why do liberals always tell people they simply *MUST* do something that is clearly optional? Wait, I know.

      1. Then you also know what happens when people don’t voluntarily do what liberals tell them to do.

    2. two birds/one stone: eat your Subway stuff in the artpark. Jeff Fleming’s head should asplode pretty quick.

      1. Also, leave several pieces of wrappers, bags, napkins, and drink cup on the lawn and benches.

    3. It’s okay, but nothing spectacular. I work right next to it and it probably was 6 months before I actually strolled through the park and looked at the sculptures.

      Ditch your commie friends & hang out with me instead. I’ll take you to the good bars in town.

  22. There is a Jimmy John’s a block from the Subway directly across the park.

    Based strictly on my own personal preference, opening a Subway within five miles of a Jimmy John’s seems like a losing proposition.

    1. What kind of sandwich place pre-slices cold cuts, anyway?

  23. Could’ve been worse: an actual subway.

  24. I’m amazed to see other Hit and Run readers in Des Moines. Why wasn’t I told? We should meet in the sculpture park for a Subway meal. Two benches should do.

    1. Given the average size of Iowans, that would be one bench each?

      I keed! (I hope.)

      1. 2 libertarians, 2 factions, 2 benches.

    2. I’m down.

  25. Cities I could live in:

    Des Moines

    Just kidding. I’ve seen Cops on TV. Des Moines never was on my “live in” list.

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