Ex-Chicago wrote:I heard something on the Channel 8 news last night about the riverwalk project getting $6 million in federal funds. Did anybody else catch that? They also said the whole project was expected to be done by 2008.
Better Life dude wrote:It will be scary as hell riding your bike or walking across it. The roar of the water over the dam next to this new bridge is very powerful - especially with the river being so high lately. The drawings show that the railings are very open and the split walkway adds to the feeling of being out there on a high wire.
Riverwalk taking shape, still looking for funds
BY JASON HANCOCK
Planners of the Principal Riverwalk project are still working on raising $18 million to complete construction, but are optimistic that the funding will come through.
Mary O'Keefe, senior vice president and chief marketing officer at Principal Financial Group Inc., said the company is in talks with the federal government for possible assistance in completing the project, but as of yet, nothing has been finalized.
"The overall budget for the main portion of this project, the 1.2 mile loop, is around $58 million," she said. "Originally, when we laid it all out five years ago, we estimated it in the $26 million to $30 million range."
O'Keefe said over the years, the project has continued to grow, something the planners had hoped would occur.
"We hoped it would grow," she said. "There have been additional amenities added that have really improved the overall project."
Also contributing to the increased cost of the project is a rise in the price of materials, such as concrete, glass and steel, O'Keefe said. Luckily, she said, both the public and private sectors have stepped up and been supportive of the project.
"The biggest pieces have come from the (Army) Corps of Engineers, the state of Iowa, the Department of Transportation and the city of Des Moines," she said. "But companies and individuals have also been very supportive in giving their money to make sure this project keeps moving forward."
Principal has already donated $12 million, she said, with Principal Chairman J. Barry Griswell and his wife, Michele, donating $1 million personally.
"Everyone in this community has really stepped up to the plate," O'Keefe said. "The support has been tremendous."
The developments that have sprung up around the Riverwalk are another indication of the project's success, O'Keefe said.
"We really hoped this would help spur other development in downtown Des Moines," she said. "We always knew this was a great area for development, and we knew someone would come up with a great use for the land around our project."
O'Keefe points to projects like the Meredith Trail, new downtown housing, upgrades at Principal Park, the Brenton Skating Plaza and many others as examples of development that was sparked by the community's initial investment in the Riverwalk.
"Projects like this take a lot of effort," she said. "But we see it as a key turning point for downtown. The Riverwalk physically joins downtown together."
The Hansen Co. Triangle, a community plaza to be located south of the MidAmerican Energy Co. substation near Grand Avenue on the west side of the Des Moines River, was not in the original plan, but because of that company's gift, the Riverwalk now includes this "world-class amenity," O'Keefe said.
The largest aspect of the Riverwalk project yet to be completed is the Center Street pedestrian bridge, O'Keefe said. Construction began on the site Aug. 15, with an expected completion date of late next year.
Robert Cramer, president of Cramer & Associates Inc., the company in charge of constructing the bridge, said his workers are just moving onto the site now to explore the banks and figure out the best way to excavate.
The bridge will be 400 feet long and feature 100-foot-tall arches. This bridge will be much bigger than the blue arched bridge on Interstate 235, Cramer said, which is only 280 feet long.
"It's a challenging design," he said. "It will take some really big cranes in the river to support the arches during construction. So, it is a little more difficult."
The steel arches and decks are currently being fabricated by a company in the Chicago area, Cramer said. They should be completed by spring.
The overall cost to construct the bridge will be $9.5 million, Cramer said.
The bridge designer, Arup, is a London-based firm that handles building, infrastructure and consulting projects all over the world. It has 7,000 employees in 70 offices scattered across more than 30 countries and claims on its Web site, "at any one time, we have over 10,000 projects running concurrently." Those projects have included such landmarks as the Sydney Opera House in Australia.
The Center Street Bridge originally was sited directly above the Center Street Dam, but will be built slightly upstream instead. The shift will make construction simpler and allow better access for any future work on the dam. It also cuts costs by shortening the span.
Though the main construction on the Riverwalk is scheduled to be completed in 2009, O'Keefe said the hope is that the project will never really stop.
"We want this to just be the beginning," she said. "We think this project can keep going. We hope it never ends."
Principal spearheaded this project, O'Keefe said, because of a desire to attract and retain employees.
"How do you attract great employees?" she said. "How do you get them to stay in your city? You have to offer them great amenities. This is just a piece of that, and we think it has already begun to spark other ideas and projects to improve the quality of life here in Des Moines."
Mastermind wrote:I think moving the bridge slightly further north is a good thing, it will probably increase the number of visitors to the Botanical Center as well as the Asian Gardens.
White-water course considered for D.M.
Project would be part of larger riverfront recreation plan
By MELISSA WALKER
REGISTER STAFF WRITER
October 3, 2007
City planners and outdoor enthusiasts envision the Des Moines River as a spot for white-water course that would generate millions of dollars in tourism each year.
The key is a $10 million course, part of a $40 million project to optimize Des Moines waterways for recreation, sports and entertainment. A new consultant's report recommends the course be constructed near the Scott Avenue dam, farther south than the original Center Street dam location. Work would include:
- A new Scott Avenue dam.
- Safety improvements at the Center Street dam that would make it passable for nonmotorized craft.
- A skate park.
- A river trail from Saylorville Lake through downtown Des Moines to Red Rock Lake in Marion County.
- Water levels that would allow boats to move from Gray's Lake to downtown.
"It's a project that could be one of the most significant public improvements in the city's history," said Don Tripp, Des Moines' parks and recreation director. "It will allow the public to make recreation use, safely, of our No. 1 resource - the river."
The course and dam improvements could be ready in five years, but "the city can't do it on its own," said Tripp, who said some of the money would have to come from private sources, such as Principal Financial Group's support for the $74 million Principal Riverwalk.
Lyle Danielson of Johnston said he traveled eight hours over Labor Day weekend to find white water in Wisconsin. He has also traveled to North Carolina and Colorado for water recreation. Danielson is president of the Iowa Whitewater Coalition, a nonprofit group that has pushed for more taxpayer investment in watersports. "It's not just for paddlers. Lots of folks are attracted to watch," he said. "Having the opportunity to go paddling close without having a lot of travel time is quite attractive to me."
The Clear Creek White Water Park in Golden, Colo., attracted about 45,000 users and $23 million over three years, which Des Moines leaders would hope to replicate. Parks officials want a regional or national white-water course that could draw Olympic athletes.
City Councilman Brian Meyer, whose ward includes the area where the white-water course and skate park would be built, said the river project's overall price tag is somewhat daunting, because "we've got so many other things that need attention in this city. I think we need to look at necessary things."
The area south of where the Des Moines and Raccoon rivers meet would be a prime spot for a white-water course, according to a report by McLaughlin Whitewater Design Group, a Denver consultant.
A new Scott Avenue dam constructed downstream would add about four feet to the river's depth, which averages four to six feet. Any improvements cannot change the city's flood protection plan, said Park Development Manager Don McLaughlin, who has no connection to the engineering company that conducted the study.
City taxpayers and Principal split the $50,000 cost of the study. Council members later this year will be asked to spend about another $150,000 for detailed designs.
Tripp said the most important aspect of the project is dam safety. Only nonmotorized boats are allowed on the rivers in downtown. There have been a handful of fatalities over the past 15 years as kayakers or canoeists were caught in swirling water below the dams.
"The power of the drop right now is so powerful it will just take a human body and spin it and spin it," McLaughlin said.
McLaughlin said parks officials will also examine whether the construction of a new dam and higher water would hurt fishing.
The fishing "used to be a lot better than it is," said Des Moines resident John Reffalt, 85, who angled for catfish from the dam on Thursday, just as he has since he was a teenager.
Reffalt said higher water levels would improve his luck because catfish don't bite when the water is low. Officials also need to consider better access to the water, such as stairs, he said.
"I'd love to be down there," Reffalt said as he pointed to three younger men fishing along the bank of the Des Moines River. "But I can't get down there anymore."
Reporter Melissa Walker can be reached at (515) 284-8451 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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