Bringing Freshness to Valley Junction: West Des Moines’ Efforts to Revitalize the Region

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When you walk through the Valley Junction shopping district, you’ll find a cat cafe on one side, a hipster record store on the other, and a pop culture-themed sausage shop.

  • Valley Junction, the oldest and original area of ​​West Des Moines has always retained its own independent and eclectic vibe. But nowadays, it’s less antique and younger.
  • Since 2016, WDM has been revitalizing the neighborhood as part of a master plan, focusing primarily on the commercial district. Now this is extending to residential neighborhoods.

Driving the news: City officials announced plans Wednesday to improve aging surrounding neighborhoods to help local residents and attract first time buyers and young families to the area.

Why is this important: The area is home to some of the most affordable housing in the city, but it also needs work that can be hard for landlords to afford, such as repairing foundations, West Des Moines Mayor Russ Trimble told Axios.

  • While the average household income in the city is $93,000, it’s only $58,000 in Valley Junction.
  • It’s also the most ethnically diverse part of the city with large Hispanic, African American and Nepalese communities, said Clyde Evans, the city’s director of economic development.

State of play: West Des Moines launches applications for three new housing initiatives on July 1 for the area between 1st Street on the east, Railroad Avenue on the south, and Grand Avenue on the north and west.

Here are the three initiatives:

1. A home improvement program that can match up to $25,000 for homeowners to make exterior repairs.

  • While the city’s median household income is $93,000, it’s only $58,000 in Valley Junction.

2. A buy-to-let program where the city plans to buy dilapidated single-family homes for rent and renovate them for sale to low-income buyers.

  • Renters make up 56% of housing in Valley Junction, compared to 37% for the city as a whole.

3. A down payment loan and grant program to help families buy a home.

What they say : Meredith Wells, the owner of MōMere in Valley Junction, said she and her husband considered the area for their first home, but couldn’t afford to renovate a house.

  • “We didn’t have the financial wherewithal to put a lot of money into this,” Wells said. “So to have a program like this, I think it’s really great for first-time buyers.”

Yes, but: Don’t expect the evolving area to look like the East Village of Des Moines, said Steve Frevert, executive director of the Historic Valley Junction Foundation.

  • There are still lots of beloved, older businesses, tons of history, and the surrounding homes make this a more cozy, family-friendly place.

The bottom line: “We need to make sure we’re not just focusing on shiny new developments out west, but also focusing our attention on Valley Junction and other aging parts of town,” Trimble said.

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