Western Gateway Park
Drive into Downtown Des Moines from all points west and you'll enter an exciting zone of urban development and neighborhood rebirth — Western Gateway.
The businesses, retailers and residents of this westernmost arm of Downtown have reinvented the entry corridor in a decidedly urban mix, breathing new life into beautiful historic buildings, adding refreshingly modern architecture and surprising the eye with serene green spaces. The mix is eclectic with fine dining, coffee shops and corporate neighbors — all surrounding a park and entirely appropriate for Iowa's capital city.
Western Gateway Park
Western Gateway Park is a 13-acre space located at the western entrance into Downtown. It incorporates a mix of green space and buildings as well as private and public spaces, including:
- The John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park — 4.4 acres and home to 28 sculptures by some of the world's most celebrated artists. Designed as an outdoor museum in the open air. Learn more about the artists and the park.
- The Des Moines Central Library — Designed in 2006 with an unconventional building shape by renowned British architect, David Chipperfield. The Library was architecturally designed to serve as a link between the park and Downtown, and includes Des Moines' first green roof.
- The University of Iowa John and Mary Pappajohn Education Center — Developed/build for continuing education geared toward the Downtown Des Moines business community. A water runnel spans across a block and a half of the Education Center and Library.
- The Temple for Performing Arts — A Masonic Temple built in 1913 that was renovated by private owners and now houses a theater, offices, restaurants, the Des Moines Symphony Academy and a high-traffic Starbucks.
The Park is an exemplary collaboration between the public and private sectors, including partners such as the City of Des Moines, John and Mary Pappajohn and other private donors, the Des Moines Art Center, Operation Downtown (Downtown's safe, clean and beautiful initiative), private redevelopment and the Downtown business community.
Western Gateway Park is in the heart of the new mixed-use district and is a memorable entry into Downtown. It is an attraction for the entire community and a tourist destination for Downtown.
Anchoring the western end of the Western Gateway neighborhood is the headquarters of Meredith Corporation, whose sprawling campus of historic and modern buildings spans either side of the street. As publisher of the venerable Better Homes and Gardens magazine, Meredith relied on its own landscaping and gardening expertise to develop the seasonal prairie gardens at the edge of Western Gateway.
Other large corporate campuses such as Nationwide, Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield, Kum & Go and Federal Home Loan Bank now also call Western Gateway home. Many of these new, multi-story buildings are LEED certified and designed by renowned architects.
The area has also attracted large franchises and local restaurants and businesses, successfully working to connect with the residents, workers and visitors of Downtown. Other businesses have chosen to office in Western Gateway, aware of the benefits it presents as a positive place for networking and growing a business around a park that attracts a large network of individuals.
In addition to economic development, there is now a flurry of activity in the area that has catapulted the overall vibrancy of the neighborhood.
Western Gateway hosts multiple events, streets lined with food trucks, busloads of students on field trips, visitors snapping pictures, runners and Downtown workers enjoying the space. It is common to see weddings taking place and bridal parties capturing photos by the famous Nomade sculpture. Some of the region’s largest festivals, such as the Des Moines Arts Festival® and 80/35 Music Festival, political rallies and social gatherings are also held in the space. The interest in the park spans generations from couples strolling on a Sunday morning to being an epicenter of the Pokémon Go craze.
The Des Moines Arts Festival® is Iowa’s largest and most prestigious arts and cultural event drawing over 200,000 people annually to Downtown Des Moines. For many years, this free, three-day festival has provided a celebration of the arts and been crowned by its peers as one of the best festivals in the world, including as the three-time award winner of the International Festival and Events Association Grand Gold Pinnacle Award.
The 80/35 Music Festival is an annual two-day progressive indie and jam music festival. As many as 50 national, regional and local bands perform on multiple stages. A combination of free and paid stages, as well as collaboration with local businesses, nonprofits and other community builders, makes the event a source of excellent value for Greater Des Moines’ (DSM’s) economy and culture.
Iowa holds a prominent place in national politics, and the state is a favorite destination for presidential candidates on the campaign trail. Political events are common in Western Gateway Park, and in 2008 then-candidate Barack Obama famously held a massive rally in the park just days before his eventual election as President.
The space is also part of Recycle DSM, Downtown Des Moines’ public space recycling initiative. The program, which started with eight receptacles in the Historic East Village, eventually expanded to 20 receptacles there and 30 in Western Gateway, helping to keep Downtown clean, green and a place where people want to work, live and visit.
The Park attracts an array of food trucks on a regular basis, and is also a hot spot for wedding photos.
Schools across the region host days in the park to enhance student education.