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Transforming Livability, One Block at a Time

Des Moines recorded 13.7 million visitors in 2016, a new record for Iowa's capital city. (AARP)
Des Moines recorded 13.7 million visitors in 2016, a new record for Iowa's capital city. (AARP)
July 13, 2018

DES MOINES, Iowa – Urban-design experts know downtown vitality is critical to a city's success, and Des Moines will take up the challenge next week when a block of East Grand Avenue gets a temporary makeover.

The block between East Fifth and Sixth streets already is home to restaurants and retail shopping, but many believe it could be a model for what an ideal city block could look like. Jeremy Barewin, associate state director of AARP Iowa, says the "pop-up" project from next Monday through Thursday is meant to beautify the block with planters and trees and create a more age-friendly, active stretch of street.

"Art installations on the street that really show a beautification, better signage on the ground that directs bikers and walkers to different areas of the city," says Barewin.

East Grand Avenue is bookended by the Iowa State Capitol and the Des Moines River. The temporary makeover is a project of AARP Iowa, the Greater Des Moines Partnership and the City of Des Moines along with local businesses. Volunteers will begin working on the project Monday with an unveiling planned for Thursday.

The makeover project will complement the Connect Downtown pilot project already in place on East Grand between Second and Seventh streets. Barewin says the temporary makeover is part of ARRP's livability mission.

"And 'Livable Communities' is really a showcase of how a neighborhood or how a city block can be accessible for people of all ages can be safe, because a city block really defines what a community and neighborhood can be," says Barewin.

This is the fifth project that AARP and Team Better Block have partnered on. Barewin encourages volunteers to get involved.

"This is a community project, and it's going to take a village to be able to build this out in four days, so if there are people who want to landscape, who want to build, who want to paint, we have a job for you," says Barewin.

Individuals or groups can register or learn more by emailing

Roz Brown, Public News Service - IA