Walnut Street, among the first in the nation to be fully illuminated with electric lights, is now a shadow of its former self.


But leaders working on plans to revitalize the street want to turn the lights back on. This afternoon, representatives from architectural landscaping firms Confluence and Genus, Reynold Urban Design, the city of Des Moines and the Downtown Community Alliance (DCA) unveiled final plans on how they propose transforming the street from a public transit mall into an entertainment corridor.


Chief among their plans is adding more light to the area. Seven light-art projects are proposed for the street, projecting light through different places in the skywalk system and art onto the Des Moines Civic Center and Davis Brown Tower.  Plans also call for replacing the dark brick paving from the sidewalks with lighter materials and adding large storefront windows that allow light to spill onto the street to brighten up the area.


Walnut Street will feature urban gardens, local and national retail shops, and parallel parking spots that wrap the street. Project leaders want the corridor to bridge the Court Avenue and Western Gateway districts, linking the areas through pedestrian-friendly walkways and entertainment options.


After the groups released preliminary concepts in mid-March, they took feedback and concern from residents to amend initial plans, including widening street corners to maximize space for pop-up retailers and food carts and bumping up parking options around Hub Tower and the Kaleidoscope at the Hub. Click here for a related story in the Business Record. 


The firms revealed new details to the street's design during the 45-minute presentation as well. Wooden benches and fixtures will be added to make the street appear warmer. Four information kiosks will be placed at various points throughout the street. The 42-inch touchscreen monitors will give visitors a chance to access wait times at restaurants, buy tickets to upcoming shows and browse the street's history.  And gates will be built so the city can easily close off the street to traffic for the high-volume events the DCA anticipates will happen.


Now that designs are completed, attention will focus on raising funds and marketing the street to retailers. The DCA has hired retail consultant Robert Gibbs to help lure big-name retailers to Walnut Street, which has about 100,000 square feet of open first-floor retail space. During a presentation in January, Gibbs told business owners and city officials that Des Moines has the potential to attract an additional 40 shops and restaurants. Click here for a related Business Record story.


No names have been released yet, but Glenn Lyons, president and CEO of the DCA, said new stores could open as early as the fall of 2014 once initial construction is complete.


The final streetscape concept is slated to go before the Des Moines City Council in May; if approved, construction will begin in early 2014.