Des Moines University leaders, with West Des Moines city leaders, community members and media, last week celebrated the start of construction at the site of DMU’s new 88-acre campus in West Des Moines.

DMU plans to move to the new campus — which will have the address 8025 Grand Ave. — from its existing campus at 3200 Grand Ave. in Des Moines during 2023, which will be the university’s 125th year. The university has had a steering committee working on a new campus master plan for about the past 18 months after confirming in June 2019 that it would be moving the campus west. 

“We’re underway in a rare and exciting journey that secures the future of Des Moines University,” said Dr. Michael Witt, chair of the university’s board of trustees and a practicing pulmonologist in Des Moines who graduated from DMU in 1977. “We’re also excited by the prospect of being able to serve the region in new ways. We’re also proud of our new partnership with the city of West Des Moines.” 

The land, which DMU purchased last year, was part of a family farm owned by the McKinney family, members of whom were present at the ceremony to show their support. The rolling farmland sits on the north side of West Grand Avenue, located between South Jordan Creek Parkway and South 88th Street, bounded on the north by Booneville Road.

"Today, with the memory of the beginning of this new chapter in the evolution of the university, our future has never been stronger or more promising," DMU President Angela Franklin said. “We see this moment of advancement as a rare chance to be innovative, to grow and to forge new partnerships that will benefit our students, faculty, staff and the community at large.”

DMU’s partners in the project include RDG Planning & Design as the design firm, Turner Construction as the general contractor and Formation Group as the university’s construction representative. University officials declined to disclose the potential dollar investment in the project at this time.

Highlights of the new campus design include: 

Flexible environments that include “technology-rich” learning studios and laboratories.

Simulated health care environments to practice patient care.

A diverse mix of open and enclosed collaboration spaces that will converge in the heart of the campus. 

An open, “energizing” learning commons and food service environment in which students, faculty and staff can connect, refresh and recharge. 

Wellness and recreation facilities, and outdoor ponds and trails. 

A private counseling suite for student access to mental health care.

While the university has 88 acres to work with, the building footprint of the new campus will initially be smaller than the existing Des Moines campus, with an eye toward greater efficiency and being environmentally

conscious, said Jonathan Martin, a partner with RDG Planning & Design, after the ceremony.

"Early on, the client was interested in creating a project that fit very well within the context of the community," Martin said. "Becoming a community asset, but also creating this very forward-thinking and innovative campus for health sciences — and so that established the goal right away."

Including a parking ramp, the campus will feature four structures initially, with a building style aimed at evoking a timeless feel, using three primary traditional materials — brick, metal and glass. 

Franklin commented on the site’s unique geology, which the campus steering committee has learned about over the past 18 months. While much of the site is flat, it rises at the north end to a hill that geologists term the "edge of advancement" of what was the Wisconsin Glacier as it moved south across North America more than 10,000 years ago.

Among the environmentally friendly applications being considered for the campus is the inclusion of green roofs on the buildings. Also, the design is carefully considering the balance of the use of glass for natural light while not being detrimental for heating and cooling costs, Martin said. 

A primary feature of the landscape that has already been completed is two ponds that will serve as collection points for stormwater, Martin said. With the use of bioswales, water draining from the site will probably be cleaner when it enters the Raccoon River, “which is what every property owner who is making improvements on their property should be doing so the system gets healthier,” he said. ν