420 Court | DSM Urban Regionalism

iowa-see-the-filming-location-of-the-1989-classic-field-of-dreams-in-dubuque-county-iowa-you-can-bat-on-the-field-or-take-a-guided-tour-of-the-surrounding-farmThis blog post is the finale after Dan’s previous 7 sessions identifying and explaining our view on a place specific and regional response to 420 Court Avenue.  I felt it important to not only recap the early sessions, but also set a high bar for Slingshot’s and my expectations for design in downtown Des Moines.  Greg.


420 Court Avenue

Seven weeks ago Slingshot + Reynolds Urban Design were invited to join Hubbell Realty in preparing a design solution for a developer initiated 420 Court Avenue Concept Request.  The Request was searching for proven teams and design concepts – not a financial pro forma.  Monday, February 24th, this evening, the City Council will be voting on Staff’s recommendation to approve the Knapp|HyVee team proposal.  Before you read any further below, I want to be clear as a long time downtown Des Moines urban architect, I’m excited and proud to see a major grocery store in downtown Des Moines.  Although I have many (way too many for this blog) opinions on where is the best location and what type of grocery store is most appropriate, the fact is we are on the cusp of securing a proven local grocery store for downtown.  This is very exciting and I wish them the utmost success which will do nothing but benefit all of us in downtown and all of Des Moines.

Our design team of Dennis Reynolds, Dan Drendel, Kyle Schleicher, Josh Williams, Matt Heires and myself were proud and excited to dig into the design problem.  We thoroughly enjoyed the engagement with Steve and Kris at Hubbell as we crafted a solution that not only would meet and work in the Des Moines market, but also be a unique response to the “Place” of 420 Court in Des Moines Iowa.  Through our Pullback process we were able to clearly and succinctly identify what we believed to be the main drivers for creating a Regional, place specific, solution for 420 Court Avenue.  Each session not only explained our concept further, but it also explained the particular regional topic.  I encourage you to read them if you are interested in learning more.

CAS /// Session #1 : 100 to 200 Year Impact

CAS /// Session #2 : The Courthouse is King

CAS /// Session #3 : Historic Buildings are Design Assets

CAS /// Session #4 : Adding Vibrant Urban Spaces

CAS /// Session #5 : Architecture Ideas Rooted in Place

CAS /// Session #6 : Developing the Urban Fabric

CAS /// Session #7 : Markers in Urban Space


Des Moines Urban Regionalism

Now that we know the staff recommended team for Council tonight, it is time for staff to begin digging into the specifics of the solution for 420 Court.  We believe this is also time for Des Moines (leaders, staff, non-architects, everyone) to raise the expectation and “bar” for our city design projects.  Solutions in the Des Moines urban fabric should be thoughtfully studied, conceptualized, scaled and detailed for the specific urban space they encounter.  Des Moines is a great place with it’s own identity and the new pieces of the built environment should explore, reinforce and expand this identity.

Although I’m not originally from Des Moines or Iowa, I made the choice to come here and stay here for a reason.  There are actually several reasons.  The history of Des Moines is fascinating and powerful.  Past and current leadership has/is shaping a multifaceted, strong, vibrant community.  The people are amazing.  The vast choices of opportunities for such a “right sized” community is unparalleled.  Lastly – I and Slingshot have been blessed to part of the impact in Des Moines the past 10 years.  Thank you.

I passionately believe in Regional place specific design.  If I had my way (hah), all project designs in downtown from the $10 ones to the 100 millions dollar ones would need to prove and show how their solution is Des Moines is a regional, place specific solution.

Greg Wattier

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