THE CENTRAL LIBRARY OUTREACH PROJECT: SERVING HOMELESS
Need a replacement Social Security card? We can help! Need a medical appointment? Talk to Curt! Need to get an email sent or use a phone? You are next in line.
Twice weekly, representatives of several nonprofit agencies staff the Outreach Project at the Central Library. The two-hour sessions, operating since early July, touch a dozen or so people, 15 or more on a jam-packed afternoon.
Curt Covington—homeless himself for five-plus years—works the project for Hope Ministries. Rob Zlomke, street outreach worker for Primary Health Care, greets many clients. Willi Jacques-Asor, of the Central Iowa Trauma Recovery Center, connects folks to mental health services. Tim Mohammad is with Standup Wireless, a government benefit program with tablets and phones for low-income households. Staff from Central Iowa Shelters and Services also participate on occasion.
“What we provide,” Rob explains, “is a warm handoff to access other resources—housing, shelters, Medicaid contacts, veterans’ programs. We have a list of all known community resources. But if we don’t have an answer, we tell folks, ‘Come back Friday, and we’ll get you connected.’
“I’m passionate about this work. I just gotta be around people, talking to folks, and helping them get to a better place.”
BUILDING COMMUNITY, ONE NOTE AT A TIME
In 2020, Tim Bohlen figured it was high time for townhome residents in the east-of-downtown Bridge District and the nearby Verve and Velocity apartment dwellers to get to know each other. Tim’s path: live music.
So during the height of COVID, Tim, who moved to the district with his wife, Diane, in 2017, organized a dozen Sunday afternoon concerts at the Bridge common area. He repeated the efforts in 2021, organizing two-hour Music on the Bridge concerts. Performers this year included The String Prophets, Jason Walsmith, the Ducharme-Jones Band, and Chad Elliott.
“Musicians loved it, and it’s a cool place to play,” reports Tim who, with Diane, numbered among the district’s first residents.
Tim did all of that with zero impresario experience. He and Diane love live music, but he didn’t have one musician’s email or cell phone. He had no idea what to pay a singer-songwriter.
But he figured if he promoted concerts to the homeowners association and Indigo Living property managers, people would show up with lawn chairs, blankets, and coolers.
And show up they did—concerts drew 30 or 60 residents and guests. Passing the hat more than covered Tim’s guarantee to musicians. Neighbor Brad Dondlinger provided a 100-feet extension cord to power band speakers that run from Bill Schoenberger’s front yard outlet to the concert area.
“I’m a neighbor guy,” Tim confesses. “And a little bit of a pot-stirrer. There’s power in this—how we work and live together, shoulder to shoulder with neighbors.”
Springboarding off the Bridge District model, Hubbell Realty senior communication specialist Claire Brehner reports organizing four monthly concerts this summer at Gray’s Station.
Concerts to build your neighborhood? Yes, you could do it—a nearby park, someone’s front yard, a church parking lot, a blocked-off street. It just takes one pot-stirrer. Like Tim Bohlen Tim.email@example.com.
IMPROVED RESPONSE TO MENTAL HEALTH 911 CALLS At our December 6 council meeting, Des Moines and Broadlawns Medical Center entered an agreement to place a trained mental-health clinician in the Des Moines Police Department 911 dispatch department. This is a seismic shift in mental-health response. In the first phase, a clinician will be on duty 40 hours a week and work closely with dispatchers, each of who have received 16 hours of training on mental health response.
From details to the Council and public: “To embrace an emerging industry best practice, the Police Department and Broadlawns developed a natural extension of Mobile Crisis Mental Health Response Team (MCRT) which will divert appropriate 911 calls that are not criminal in nature or medical emergencies to well-trained mental health clinicians.
“Per the diversion response model, a member of the Crisis Advocacy Response Effort (CARE) will assist the caller in crisis by phone or in person, but generally will not be accompanied by a police officer or EMS professionals.”
BIOSWALES: NOT YOUR TYPICAL STREET PROJECT Take a gander at new Market District streets under construction, and you are apt to say to yourself, “What the heck is this about?”
In the photo above, Ryan Companies workers form bioswales along Elm Street that will be transformed into vegetated retaining ditches to collect, filter, and convey stormwater from streets, parking lots, and rooftops.
Bioswales are open rain gardens along streets that use plants to absorb stormwater and pollutants that would otherwise flow through underground stormwater pipes. The bioswales capture about 25 percent more runoff than most projects and reduce pollutants that could reach streams and rivers. Additionally, the rain gardens help reduce heat island impact and provide some habitat for birds and insects, creating a healthier environment for the district.
The cross-section illustration below provides an example of what contractors are engineering beneath Elm Street. The bioswales network is about 6 feet below grade; the top layer of soil varies from 22 to 30 inches.
Denver-based Design Workshop, the Market District consultant, has completed similar projects in Houston, St. Louis, Salt Lake City, and Wheaton, Illinois (suburban Chicago). The Market District bioswales are among the first in Iowa to accommodate future building roof water.
Houston’s Bagby Street project has been recognized as Texas’s first certified green-road project. The rain gardens remove up to 93 percent of the oil and grease from the roadway and improve downstream water quality.
COMING IN 2023: PRINCIPAL PARK UPGRADES
You may have learned that in 2020, Major League Baseball (MLB) stepped up to the plate to take a more prominent role in minor league baseball—from the number of farm clubs to schedules to facility improvements. You also may have heard that earlier in December, the private equity fund Diamond Baseball Holdings purchased the Iowa Cubs along with eight other minor-league baseball clubs.
This reorienting of minor-league baseball has spurred the necessity of updates to the Cubs’ downtown home, Principal Park, the oldest park among the 30 Triple-A affiliates. Because Principal Park is part of the city’s parks and recreation system, the City Council will vote next year to approve Phase 1 updates before the 2023 season. The updates, which are expected to cost $6.5 million, are necessary for Des Moines to retain a Triple-A club under MLB’s decrees.
Fans won’t notice most changes, including larger visitor locker rooms, upgrades for female coaches and female umpires, and a more significant weight room. But Phase 1 plans also include upgrading the solid green center field wall known as the “batter’s eye,” which helps hitters track pitchers’ fastballs smoking in at 90-plus mph. The new 30-foot-high wall will minimally block the view of the Iowa State Capitol from the lower rows of seats behind home plate.
Historically, triple-A baseball has been one of Des Moines’ favorite spring and summer pastimes. Although Des Moines is one of the smallest Triple-A cities and one of the smallest metro areas, the franchise has consistently been one of minor-league baseball’s best drawing cards. In pre-COVID years, the I-Cubs finished in the top 15 for fan attendance among 160 minor league teams (now down to 120).
The I-Cubs have been a major-league economic engine as well. In 2016, the most recent survey, the ballclub was credited with $15.65 million in regional output, including 200-plus jobs worth $5.3 million in income. Total industrial output to the Des Moines metro area was outlined at $29.53 million.
With baseball on our minds, here are the walk-up tunes for current players in the decision-making. According to Sports-Net.org, “Walk-up songs are something to be taken very seriously. The 10 seconds of ear magic represents who you are and should leave a memorable impression on the stadium.”
Mayor Frank Cownie
Council Member Bill Gray
“Centerfield” by John Fogarty
Council Member Linda Westergaard
“Forever Young” by Bob Dylan
Council Member Josh Mandelbaum
“I Feel Good” by James Brown
Council Member Joe Gatto
“Thunderstruck” by AC/DC
Council Member Connie Boesen
“Authority Song” by John Cougar Mellencamp
Council Member Carl Voss
“Madness on Main Street” by The Blue Band
Des Moines Park and Recreation Director Ben Page
“The Cheap Seats” by Alabama
Iowa Cubs president/GM Sam Bernabe
“Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey
SIXTH AVENUE BUS SHELTERS: OUT OF THE ORDINARY
The first of 12 new DART bus shelters were installed earlier this month in the Sixth Avenue Corridor just south of Jefferson Avenue. The Des Moines Public Art Foundation commissioned contemporary artist Sheena Rose to design the first seven shelters.
The 6th Avenue Corridor Main Street Program led the fundraising and financial contributions for the art component of the project, part of a $1.5 million streetscape project. Funders include Polk County, Prairie Meadows, Wells Fargo, MercyOne, the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines, Bankers Trust, the Wellmark Foundation, and the Iowa Great Places Program.
• Expect a December 20 Council agenda item to approve an RFP for a Climate Action Plan. The plan development is expected to take 18 months.
• Look for the first round of parking pay stations to go live in late January, in the west end of downtown. The project, replacing 3,500 parking meters will 400 pay stations, should be completed by April or May. The project cost: $3 million. More details ⬅️
• Earlier this year, MidAmerican Energy reported that wind turbines supplied more than 80% of its generated electricity, as opposed to 29% worldwide. Ride along with Scottish pro cyclist Danny MacAskill as he explores wind power on his trick bike.
• In November, Heather Tamminga joined Neighborhood Services as the City’s neighborhood outreach coordinator. Heather is a new (additional) City resource to assist our 50-plus neighborhood associations.
Here’s a sure sign of colder days ahead: The first majestic American bald eagles have returned to their winter feeding below the Scott Avenue dam. I saw three on my Thursday morning run. Bee-U-tiful! Bring your binoculars and head to the Scott Avenue or East Sixth bridge to take in the views. By chilly January, there should be 25 or more eagles to enjoy.
Be sure to check out the festive winter lighting of Dogtown just east of Drake University. The University Avenue lighting project between 23rd and 24th streets—funded through a $75,000 Wells Fargo grant—is scheduled to premiere at 5 pm on Saturday, Dec. 18. The LED lighting scheme, created locally by Mike Lambert as part of Invest DSM, is scheduled to remain in operation through the winter months.