Barbara Kirk moved into The Plaza in downtown Des Moines 24 years ago.
Kirk, a self-described “urbanite,” says many of the condominium’s perks appealed to her, such as tennis courts, a gym and a pool, along with its convenient access to the skywalk. She also liked the high ceilings and open floor plan.
But many of the downtown attractions she enjoys today are recent additions to her neighborhood. She’s seen a dramatic transformation in the area, now home to a more robust arts and culture scene, offering numerous entertainment options within walking distance, as well as a variety of housing options.
“In the last 10 years, the improvement in downtown Des Moines has been incredible,” she says. Spots like the Pappajohn Sculpture Park, Wells Fargo Arena and Principal Riverwalk have joined ones more established, such as Des Moines Performing Arts (formerly the Civic Center of Greater Des Moines) and Gray’s Lake.
Events like the Des Moines Arts Festival, Downtown Farmers Market and Winefest Des Moines mean there’s more to do downtown now than ever before.
Kirk, who enjoys entertaining and holds many fundraisers at her home, likes to sit out on her condo’s south balcony to take it in.
“We can sit out there and watch Court Avenue come alive,” she says, or listen to music from the Simon Estes Amphitheater or watch games at Principal Park.
Thanks to the Downtown Neighborhood Association, of which Kirk is a member, there’s more of a sense of community among the residents of the area, she says. The group has helped bring people together.
Kirk not only lives downtown, but also worked downtown. She ran her business, B. Kirk Enterprises, an incentive travel company, on the skywalk for about 25 years. Her work took her all over the world, and she continues to travel today. Her home contains numerous mementos of her trips, from a puppet that’s a Buddhist prince, which she found in Myanmar, to wall hangings she brought back following her first safari to South Africa.
Kirk doesn’t have one favorite piece. Rather, it’s her roommates, her pets Benzy and Mercedes, she likes the most.
“My cats are my favorite,” Kirk says.