Get Ready for Cowles Commons to Open

Jun 3, 2015

The "red carpet" of granite bricks stretches across Cowles Commons to the Civic Center in downtown Des Moines.
Credit Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

Twenty-one months of construction on a public space in downtown Des Moines is nearing completion.

Cowles Commons – once known as Nollen Plaza – has been undergoing a 12-million-dollar renovation since September of 2013.

Des Moines Performing Arts, which operates the Civic Center across the street from the Commons, has been leading the project.

Its president and C-E-O Jeff Chelesvig says there were some structural design elements that slowed reconstruction.

“Almost everything that operates Cowles Commons is underground," Chelesvig says. "There are two enormous vaults that store the pumps for the fountain. Those had to be installed, water-proofed, all of the things that are necessary. When you battle the elements of weather and winter, it was really a challenge. But we got it all done.”

Chelesesvig says there also were challenges to building in downtown Des Moines.

“The light standards are 80-feet high, he says. "The bases are buried 25-feet down. To be able to do that safely and efficiently took a lot of time.”

The iconic Crusoe Umbrella remains in place and sports a fresh coat of paint at Cowles Commons.
Credit Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

  The iconic Crusoe Umbrella remains in place and has received a fresh coat of paint.

A second 94-foot-wide by 28-foot high sculpture will be added in the fall.

More than 11-thousand granite stones were laid to create a 287-foot-long, 119-foot-wide “red carpet” that stretches across the Commons toward the Civic Center.

Cowles Commons will open to the public June 18th. 

Patches of gardens decorate the renovated Cowles Commons.
Credit Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio