The Tomorrow Plan Final Report: Working Draft for Review

Download the Draft Report PDF (5 MB)


Whereas, the Federal Interagency Partnership for Sustainable Communities has selected Greater Des Moines as one of 45 initial regions to pursue regional sustainable development planning;

Whereas, the people of Greater Des Moines desire to strengthen diversity and equity to promote the environmental and economic health of the region, community, neighborhoods, and individuals;

Whereas, we intend to stay attentive to the needs of future generations and current shifting trends in demographics, economics, nature, and expectations of significant regional growth;

Whereas, we value the importance of integrating social, economic, and natural resources needs and opportunities with strategic direction for the region’s future;

Whereas, we intend to build from current cooperative ventures throughout the region to find additional opportunities to collaborate and create efficiencies and/or higher quality services to residents;

Whereas the means to a vibrant, lasting future includes a healthy environment and expanded choices and access in health, food, transportation, housing, work, culture, learning, and play;

Whereas steps can be taken today to lead to a well-balanced tomorrow that maximizes the effort for the betterment of the entire region;

Now, therefore, be it resolved, that we, the members of The Tomorrow Plan Steering Committee endorse the vision, mission, goals and strategies presented in this plan and intend to continue working within our communities and across the region to help this plan become reality.


Greater Des Moines will be a collaborative, vibrant and dynamic region of lasting value, equity, and diversity.


Ever mindful of future generations, our mission is to cooperate across political boundaries to achieve social, economic, and environmental resilience for Greater Des Moines.


A complex of deep-rooted tall grass prairies, wetlands, and oak savannas once dominated Iowa’s more-rolling-than-you-know landscape. Over the past 150 years, European settlers converted this exceptionally fertile terrain to some of the most productive farmland in the world. Centers of commerce and population pepper this golden landscape – places peopled by characters of energy, vision, and a commitment to work, family, and community.

You can find the most populous, and one of the most robust such focal points, near Iowa’s geographic center. Greater Des Moines, the state’s capital and its environs, hosts 17 communities, parts of four counties, and a population today exceeding 400,000 in number.

Finance, insurance, and the bio-economy dominate the economic landscape of the Greater Des Moines metro area– with farmland still framing this vital seat of policy, job growth, and culture.

Many will tell you – and rightfully so – Greater Des Moines today reaps the rewards of renaissance. Concerted leadership work on many fronts translates into vital placemaking projects and policies that have revitalized, re-shaped, and re-envisioned much of the community.

We have graceful gateways across Greater Des Moines, popular parks, ribbons of trails, riverwalks, iconic sculptures, signature events, rich options for personal/professional growth and an ongoing commitment to public health, job creation, and community-building.

Throughout the region we now hear things that might have been unimaginable a decade ago – “There’s nowhere else I’d rather be” or “I can’t believe all this place has to offer!” or “I moved here because this is such a great environment for young professionals.” Nice complements to the age-old “great place to raise a family.”

With this framework, Greater Des Moines plans ahead. In short, this plan builds on success – but also heeds an undoubtedly shifting future. Hence its forward-looking title, The Tomorrow Plan.

Factors of growing population, changing demographics, uncertain climate forecasting, and the ever-increasing influence of global economics all complicate future predictions while making them all the more necessary. Armed with a significant grant, other excellent planning work in the region, and a commitment to work across boundaries, Greater Des Moines has launched a daunting task: Craft a plan for a dynamic, vibrant future of lasting value using 2050 as a target.

The process for The Tomorrow Plan is detailed elsewhere in this report, but, in brief, includes:

  • extensive public engagement using many tools,
  • steering and technical committees from across the region helping at every turn,
  • intensive data gathering and modeling,
  • ongoing partnering and collaborations with other plans and initiatives across the Metro,
  • a hard-working team of committed locals and consultants,
  • translation of these approaches and results into strategic direction and well-founded implementation plans.

To best prepare yourself for what you’re about to read and absorb, we encourage you to review one of the great pieces of work derived from the public, technical, and steering committee efforts – Guiding Principles – not just for the plan itself, but for the long-term future of Greater Des Moines.

These principles honor our place in agriculture and finance while setting the stage for expanding opportunities. They recognize the critical roles of diversity and equity, scope environmental and economic opportunities and mostly, work on a human scale to help us think through what it takes to work together as a region and leverage the many social, economic, and conservation benefits already in play.

After digesting these principles, we urge you to read through this document. Understand the process, but focus in particular on the role(s) you and your organizations can take on to move forward with strategies and initiatives. You’ll find this document rich with ideas, realistic approaches, achievable steps, and useful tools to bring home to this region a 2050 of vitality and substance.


1. Allow for sustainable options that offer flexibility and that enhance mixed uses, walkability/accessibility, and sense of place through zoning, land use planning, and development.

2. Support existing neighborhoods by redeveloping/repurposing underused and vacant properties and by cultivating public-private partnerships.

3. Increase housing and transportation options while maintaining neighborhood character and enhancing sense of place.

4. Improve efficiency, equity, quality, and performance through a concerted effort to regionalize infrastructure services and standards where appropriate and practical.

5. Maintain, enhance, and connect parks, recreation, and conservation opportunities to promote the health of natural resources and people.

6. Preserve agricultural lands and natural systems by encouraging infill development.

7. Increase the region’s commitment to economic development and job creation.

8. Enable local stakeholders to work together to achieve regional goals while respecting individual institutions.

9. Promote regional approaches to stormwater and flood management.

10. Foster support for the continued evolution of entertainment, culture, and the arts in the region.

How to Read This Plan

In reading this plan, it is important to note it is not a land use plan or a mandatory document. Instead, it is a strategic direction for Metro Des Moines enriched with high-level, but achievable, approaches and steps for implementation.

Planning Process & Context

The opening sections of this plan set up its purpose and explain the multi-year process of engaging community members, elected leaders, and technical experts to develop the plan’s major goals, strategies, and initiatives.

Goals & Strategies

The next section provides the plan’s overview in the form of the four goals the plan is intended to achieve and the high level strategies that can get us there. Following this overview of goals and strategies, you will see each strategy expanded. This provides a much greater rationale for each strategic approach and begins to demonstrate who needs to do what to bring it to fruition.

Regional Initiatives

The report’s most robust section details five regional initiatives of significance. Each one of these initiatives supports multiple goals and strategies that – if executed – will provide meaningful, measurable progress toward reaching the vision of a vibrant, dynamic region of lasting value. Within the discussion of these initiatives, you will see a collection of implementation steps of substance. If all five initiatives achieve some notable level of success, this region will be well on its way.

On-line Support or “Toolbox”

Throughout these sections, and particularly in the Regional Initiatives section, you will also see references to technical documents and other resources. These will be part of an on-line toolbox that anyone connected to this plan will be able to access and use. These tools will make implementation considerably simpler and more straightforward. The toolbox itself should grow over time as the plan’s implementers share lessons learned, new research becomes available, and tools are refined.


Download the Draft Report PDF (5 MB)