Glenn Lyons calls it “something really special.”

Matt Anderson has never seen this much development at once in his 12 years of working with the city of Des Moines.

The bottom line: 2014 should be a big year for downtown Des Moines. 

Lyons, president and CEO of the Downtown Community Alliance, Anderson, assistant city manager, and Greg Edwards, president and CEO of the Greater Des Moines Convention and Visitors Bureau, spoke Thursday as members of a Des Moines Downtown Chamber of Commerce panel on the  “Top 10 Things to Expect Downtown in 2014.” 

The Business Record asked the three men what they think the top project, initiative, trend or challenge for downtown will be in 2014. 

Glenn Lyons:

“I think there are probably three things that should really stand out next year. They are all very different.

One is what I call the chess game. This is the stuff that Bill Knapp started. It involves the old Plex (Des Moines Convention Complex), the old J.C. Penney and the existing YMCA site on the river. Out of that play we are going to get a new Y at the Plex, we’re going to get three renovated courthouse facilities, including the renovation on Walnut Street, and we’ll get a new mixed-use development site on the river. 

We’re going to see Walnut Street transformed. The Younkers project will be opening up in the fall next year. That’s a really big deal. EMC (Insurance Cos.) is going to be putting money into the Kaleidoscope to rehab that in various ways to attract more tenants. This month, the City Council should be reviewing the proposal for the first three blocks of Walnut Street, which is between Fifth Avenue and Eighth Street. ... You won’t recognize the place by Christmas of next year.

The third one is kind of a sleeper, because they are all little projects but they are all around us. It’s all the residential that’s coming and in construction and in the works right now. Over 1,000 units. That’s a huge deal. That’s a decade’s worth of development in our downtown. 

I don’t know how to phrase what’s going on now, but there are a whole bunch of positive things that are coming together for a special year. It’s not just big projects. It’s not just projects in one neighborhood. It’s all kinds of projects everywhere. I think in 2015, we’ll be trying to ask ourselves: How did we make that happen? Can we do it again?”

Greg Edwards:

“I think the No. 1 thing from our perspective is a downtown convention center hotel. And there’s still obviously a lot of details that have to be worked out. Number one, the developer and what the financial plan looks like and all those kinds of things. But we are optimistic that it will move forward next year, and at least get it in the ground and get it to the point where we can start selling and marketing another new huge enhancement for us on the convention and sports side of things. I would say in the next 60 days, a developer will be selected.

I would hope at least the dirt’s turning and construction has begun (by the end of next year). My guess is it would be a couple of years, probably late 2016 to early 2017, before it would open. From a Convention and Visitors Bureau sports and convention standpoint, we’re selling right now things for 2016, 2017 and 2018. So it will have a huge impact on what we’re selling and how we’re going about our marketing.”

Matt Anderson:

“As I thought of what is the next big thing for downtown, I thought of it in terms of a certain product type, a certain location, and I didn’t really come up with one. I have so many on my desk. So to me, the next big thing is momentum. The momentum we have downtown in housing, both rental and I think soon-to-be owner-occupied as Hubbell (Realty Co.) is introducing more townhomes and proving there’s a market. The momentum that we have in hotels, in the retail that’s starting to pop up, and restaurants and entertainment. 

I think what you’ll start to see in 2014 – and, based on the pipeline of things that I’m working on, probably for the next three to five years – just the momentum of projects building, and building is going to be extraordinary downtown. 

I think you are going to see wave after wave of projects coming forward for the City Council to approve. 

There was a period of time where we had all the big office developments coming through, one after another. Really, not since we hit that period in the mid-2000s have we seen the kind of momentum that we have now. It’s fun to be a part of.”