JSC Properties, as it develops the Market District, likely will request that the city of Des Moines vacate a portion of Third Street to create a private pedestrian alley, similar to what has been created in downtown Denver’s Dairy Block.

“What they did there is just a really good idea,” said Paul Hayes, president of JSC Properties. “Frankly, we have been so impressed with [the Dairy Block] that we are going to be a bit of copycat.”

Denver’s Dairy Block, about two blocks from Union Station and one block from Coors Field, is a mix of renovated, historic buildings and two newly constructed ones. The project opened in spring 2017 and features Denver’s first pedestrian alley that provides connections to shops, restaurants, bars and the lobby of a new hotel. 

“It has a cohesive feel to it,” said Julie Dunn, a Dairy Block spokesperson. “All of it – the ground-floor retail, restaurants, hotel lobby – all open up onto the alley. That’s really the focal point of the block.”

The alley was cleaned, repaved and decorated with murals and other outdoor artwork before its opening in spring 2018. The alley also has a common consumption liquor license that allows guests to carry drinks purchased at one of the area’s restaurants or bars from one end of the walkway to the other as well as into shops.

Outdoor seating is available, and before the pandemic, special events were held such as a Fall Flannel Fest and Santa Clause in the Alley. Groups provide live music and pop-up art is scattered throughout the alley.

“Denver never activated its alleys before,” Dunn said. “It’s a whole new concept, and people who visit it love it.”

A team of developers – Colorado’s McWhinney, Sage Hospitality and Grand American Inc. – worked together to create the Dairy Block, described as a “micro-district” within Denver’s Lower Downtown (LoDo) area. The micro-district got its name from Windsor Dairy, whose facility was constructed on the block around 1920.