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The Principal Riverwalk - Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)


How did The Principal come up with this idea for a project?
The Principal is a longtime supporter of downtown Des Moines. While there are many exciting projects going on downtown and along the riverfront, we believed there was something missing: a project that tied the various developments together, united the east and west sides of the river and would spur housing and commercial development. Based on research conducted by the City of Des Moines and the Parks and Recreation Department, we knew that our community was looking for an attraction that tieds to the outdoors. We were excited about the possibilities The Principal Riverwalk would offer.

We saw The Principal Riverwalk as an opportunity to expand the already wonderful work that had been done to support downtown Des Moines by the City of Des Moines, the Parks and Recreation Department and the community. It built on the success of such projects as Gray's Lake, the Science Center of Iowa and the revitalization of the East Village. And it was a wonderful way to tie together more than 300 miles of Central Iowa trails.

How did you decide what is included in The Principal Riverwalk development?
Community input weighed heavily in our decisions regarding what was to be included in the project. We received more than 6,000 comments and suggestions through our Web site and community input sessions regarding amenities for The Principal Riverwalk. The feasibility study provided us a tremendous amount of information regarding environmental, engineering and design factors. We also paid great attention to developing a foundation of elements and amenities into the project that will spur economic development.

What was involved in the feasibility study?
The design team members represent a broad spectrum of experience and knowledge. The feasibility aspect of The Principal Riverwalk covers topics such as historical relevance; flood protection and water flow; natural habitat; the incorporation of public art; landscape and architectural issues; maintenance; recreational attributes; economic impact of residential, commercial, entertainment and retail activities; universal accessibility for all; and the working relationships between the private and public sectors.

What was the most common concern/request you heard from the community as part of the feasibility study?
There were four key themes, which the community continually brought to discussion. These are:

  • Keep the design and project simple—don't over program the space.
  • Allow for a way to get people on the water, at least at some future point in time.
  • Provide a safe, secure and well-maintained area, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 12 months a year.
  • Whenever possible, utilize separate paths/trails so walkers, dogs, runners, bikers can co-exist, peacefully. In addition, make sure the trails are of a sufficient width.

All of these factors are addressed in the plans for The Principal Riverwalk.

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Project Details

How will security be handled for The Principal Riverwalk?
Security and safety are offered 24/7. We'd point to the tremendous success of the Gray's Lake project as proof that this can be done, and done well. In addition, the Des Moines Police Department is located within the riverfront area—certainly, its presence is an asset.

Is The Principal Riverwalk available for use all year?
The Principal Riverwalk incorporates venues for year-round activity, including the Brenton Skating Plaza and The Hub Spot, which accommodate year-round programming opportunities; and maintenance of some walking paths.

How have you integrated public art into The Principal Riverwalk?
Since day one, our objectives for the project have included integrating public art into The Principal Riverwalk. Significant sculptures currently on display as part of The Principal Riverwalk are "Untitled" by Joel Shapiro in the Long Look Garden, "Quantum Leaf" by Sally Vagliano Pettus featured in the Hansen Triangle, and "Dangos" by Jun Kaneko featured at the Hub Spot.

Is The Principal Riverwalk accessible for people with all abilities?
Yes. The Principal Riverwalk has been designed to meet or exceed all ADA requirements and standards.

Will "on the water" activities be available as part of the project?
"On the water" activities are not part of the first phase of The Principal Riverwalk. However, future development of the area may focus on ways to make the water accessible for recreation.

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Operation and maintenance

Who pays for the operation and maintenance of The Principal Riverwalk?
The City of Des Moines approved several principles to guide the development of the formal operation and maintenance plan for the project. Included was the consolidation operation and maintenance expenses related to The Principal Riverwalk with those of other various downtown projects, including Western and Eastern Gateway and Martin Luther King Parkway improvements. Also approved by the Des Moines City Council was an expectation that the total operations and maintenance cost to be funded from a variety of public and private sources, including the City of Des Moines, revenues generated by the projects, Polk County, a self-supported municipal improvement district (SSMID) and other potential sources of funding.

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