A 650-acre area in Clive and West Des Moines would include more mixed-use designations under a plan approved this week by West Des Moines' Planning and Zoning Commission. The area is between University Avenue and Interstate Highway 235 and 22nd Street/Northwest 86th Street and Interstate 35/80. The light purple areas on the map show where mixed-use land designations are proposed. Most are currently either commercial or office uses. Map courtesy of Confluence

A reinvigorated University Avenue corridor in Clive and West Des Moines would include more housing, an improved transportation network, a variety of retail-related amenities and better storm water management, according to a plan shared during a public meeting this week.

“We’re looking at increasing [the area’s] economic viability, really making it a ‘live, work and play’ destination,” Chris Shires, a principal at Confluence, told the West Des Moines Planning and Zoning Commission on Monday.

Confluence, a Des Moines-based landscape architecture, planning and urban design firm, was selected by the cities of Clive and West Des Moines to lead a study to re-envision the redevelopment of roughly 650 acres between University Avenue and Interstate Highway 235 and 22nd Street/Northwest 86th Street and Interstate 35/80.

The area includes University Park Shopping Center in Clive and Valley West Mall in West Des Moines. Both centers are in decline, with large amounts of vacancies and little recent reinvestment.

Confluence was hired in early 2020 and had estimated it would take less than a year to complete the redevelopment study. However, the pandemic slowed the process, Shires told the commission.

City leaders believe redeveloping portions of the area could increase property and sales tax revenues, ease traffic congestion and spark new residential development.

Reinvestment beginning to occur

In recent years, the area has experienced some redevelopment and reinvestment. Among them:

  • A new headquarters for West Bank is under construction on about 7.5 acres at 3330 Westown Parkway in West Des Moines, where a mostly empty neighborhood shopping center, vacant restaurant building and other structures had stood.
  • In 2020, ClaimDOC purchased property at 3200 Westown Parkway that was home to a former fitness center. ClaimDOC spent more than $3.8 million renovating the building.
  • The Westowne Shopping Center at 1400 22nd St. in West Des Moines is undergoing a multimillion-dollar facelift and has attracted new tenants.
  • The Westridge Shopping Center at 10201 University Ave. in Clive has added new tenants as has an adjacent strip center at 9999 University Ave. where JoAnn Fabric and Crafts is now located.
  • A former extended-stay hotel at 11428 Forest Ave. in Clive has been converted to workforce housing.

“This corridor really does have some significant value,” Shires told the commission. “It’s why we see some of the big retailers there today; why you have some of the big tenants in place today. We see that continuing.

"But, of course, there’s other things we need to be watching out for.”

Areas exist in the corridor that are either under-utilized or vacant and could be redeveloped, either as open space or new or redeveloped commercial or residential, Shires said.

The corridor study proposes designating more areas as mixed-use, which could include residential, commercial and office. Among the areas recommended for a mixed-use designation are Valley West Mall, Westridge and University Park shopping center, and an area along the northside of Westown Parkway between 22nd and 31st streets.

Little residential development exists in the study's area currently, Shires said.

“We know there’s a housing crunch metrowide,” Shires said. “This is an opportunity for us to infuse this area with housing that’s needed. In turn, the housing will help reinforce or strengthen the retail market.”

It will also allow people to live near where they work, he said.

Offering economic incentives

The plan proposes that both cities provide economic incentives to help spark redevelopment.

One idea is to offer a forgivable loan or grant program that would provide $1 of public money for every $4 of private investment per new dwelling unit. The loan or grant would be capped at $25,000 per unit.

Similar incentives were recommended for redevelopment of existing office and retail buildings.

“Maybe some under-performing office could either be rehabbed or redeveloped into a higher-grade place, or changed to residential,” Shires said.

Shires said it could take 10 or more years for the redevelopment plan to be fully implemented. How fast redevelopment occurs is dependent on the level of interest from current owners in making changes to their properties, he said.

During meetings with property owners they heard them say 'Help us get our properties transformed to that next step; help us stay relevant,’” Shires said.

Clyde Evans, West Des Moines’ community and economic development director, said the city is willing to work with property owners.

“We’re going to be open to creative solutions,” Evans said. “I think what we’re trying to demonstrate with this plan is that we’re open to new ideas and doing something different rather than the same old thing.”

The West Des Moines Plan and Zoning Commission approved the redevelopment plan; the City Council is expected to vote on whether to accept the plan at its Dec. 5 meeting. The Clive Planning and Zoning Commission is expected to vote on the plan at its Jan. 5 meeting; and the City Council is expected to on Jan. 12.

To read an overview of the proposed plan, click here.