Community Building: Transforming Our Neighborhoods

There’s no doubt Des Moines is getting a lot of attention lately and seeing physical improvements on almost every street downtown. Alongside several different initiatives taken by groups in the community like The Tomorrow Plan, our company is eager to help make Des Moines a better place to live, work and play for all who live here.

Community Housing Initiatives (CHI) has seen success in neighborhood revitalization efforts over the last couple years in Washington neighborhood in Dubuque. We felt we could bring lessons learned from that experience to Des Moines, and so we set out to learn where the city was focusing its efforts. Recent neighborhood planning efforts began in Capitol East, MLK Jr Park and Capitol Park neighborhoods, so CHI started creating relationships and building trust with residents in the area.

The approach CHI is taking with neighborhood improvement is three-pronged: providing community building opportunities for residents, increasing the value of homes in the area through rehab, and building positive perceptions through strategic marketing and public relations efforts. Since entering the neighborhoods, we have been getting to know school representatives, residents, business owners and all the people that make the neighborhood unique. Time has told us that engaging youth in the neighborhood is a high priority simply because of the large population present and a small pool of resources.

To support the neighborhood and the school, CHI hosted a service day at Hiatt Middle School on May 16. The event offered ten different activities throughout the day for each class, engaging over 600 students. Some planted produce in the community garden while others painted pots to give to teachers as a thank you. In addition, Community Youth Concepts came to present on the value of volunteerism.

This was a new experience to everyone involved and turned out to be a total success. To date, the community garden is seeing tons of produce sprouting, and the flower bed in the front of the school continues to welcome people to the beautifully renovated, historic middle school. Community building is key to seeing neighborhood change. Residents are getting plugged into several opportunities and empowered to make changes that impact their quality of life.

We are excited to launch an upcoming campaign, Viva East Bank, that will bring hundreds of stakeholders to see that our neighborhoods in Des Moines are thriving. Stay tuned on The Tomorrow Plan Exchange to learn about this coalition. To learn how you can participate in this effort or our other work to build stronger neighborhoods, visit or send me an email at

emily-boydEmily Boyd is a neighborhood engagement coordinator at Community Housing Initiatives. She works with residents in the East Bank neighborhoods to empower them and teach them how to make their neighborhood a better place to live, work and play.

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