A Love for Community, Visiting Des Moines
Oct22

A Love for Community, Visiting Des Moines

By now I’m sure you’ve heard some of the buzz surrounding the Inter-City Visit to Des Moines, organized by Greater Fort Wayne Inc. (GFW). If you haven’t, I’ll briefly explain. “Greater Fort Wayne Inc. is the new organization that unifies the Fort Wayne – Allen County Economic Development Alliance and the Greater Fort Wayne Chamber of Commerce, serving as a single point-of-contact for economic growth in Greater Fort Wayne.” –greaterfortwayneinc.com The GFW Inter-City Visit sent Fort Wayne community leaders to Des Moines, Iowa, a Midwestern city that was recently rated #1 in GFW’s Competitiveness Index. The group of nearly forty individuals was charged with finding out what makes the city so successful and to bring some of that success back to Fort Wayne in the form of ideas and inspiration. I’m going to spare you the conversation of economic development, public-private partnership, investment, foundations, etc. (all of which is very important, but can be found in a slew of other local coverage) and give you the perspective of a 30-something young professional seeking a vibrant culture. My first impression of Des Moines was captured as the plane descended on the city. It wasn’t really that big, actually its city limits are nearly 30 square miles smaller than Fort Wayne’s, however their urban landscape sprawls much further than our own handful of downtown blocks. We received another brief glimpse of the city as we were bussed back to our hotel, but the real exploration would come later. The first day consisted of some discussions with a couple of Des Moines community leaders over lunch and dinner, interjected with a bus tour of the city in between. The bus tour drove us through their sprawling downtown, past sculpture parks and many examples of public art, brownstone-style housing with doors walking out directly to the sidewalk, through the East Village district full of boutiques and nightlife, and all the way out through their suburbs. Downtown housing was impressive with around eight thousand residents in lofts converted from old warehouses, townhouses with rooftop terraces, and apartments above boutique-style shops. After the first day I had been instilled with a wanderlust (thanks to a friend for that word). However, day two was for listening and conversation, not for wandering. We spent Friday on the 33rd floor of the Raun Center (which by the way, has a beautiful view of the city) learning about the success of Des Moines. I will admit, at first I felt a little trapped as I stared out the window imagining the pavement begging me to explore more, but I soon became engrossed and inspired by the discussion. As promised...

Read More