The city of Waukee has seen significant residential growth during the last decade, with a population that was 13,790 in the 2010 census, an increase of almost 200 percent in a 10-year span. With the growth spurt have come new business developments and expansions. Major employers in the city are adding jobs, and the city has adopted a master plan for the Alice’s Road Corridor, which is also expected to spur development and growth. With a great school system, additional housing and several quality of life projects, the future for Waukee development looks bright.
In 2011, Waukee adopted a master plan for the Alice’s Road Corridor from the planned interchange at Interstate 80, north to the Hickman Road intersection. The goal of the plan was to provide a land use mix that would create opportunities for job growth within a designated employment core for Waukee.
The City of Waukee is aggressively moving forward with the development of the Alice’s Road Corridor between Interstate 80 and University Avenue. The overall corridor project has been split into smaller projects based upon funding that will be completed over the next several years.
“The City has completed the construction of the Alice’s Road Sanitary Sewer Project in preparation for the new extension and interchange,” says Development Services Director Brad Deets. “This trunk sewer will serve close to 600 acres of development land.”
The project involves the construction of a four-lane boulevard, with plans for it to be expanded to six lanes in the future. The project will also include a series of ponds that will be developed for storm water management purposes in addition to a greenway amenity within the corridor. Construction on the project is anticipated to begin this fall and be completed in October of 2014.
“Our current schedule for Alice’s Road construction is to bid out the portion of Alice’s Road between University Avenue to Ashworth Road in late October of 2013,” Deets says. “The hope is that grading work will commence yet this fall, with utilities and paving to be completed on this segment next year.”
This project entails the construction of a diverging diamond interchange on Interstate 80 as well as the paving of a six-lane roadway extending from the bridge to Ashworth Road. The diverging diamond design makes the planned Alice’s Road Interchange the first of its kind in Iowa.
Under this design, travelers over Interstate 80 are directed to the opposite side (left) of the bridge and then redirected back to the traditional drive lane on the right. While difficult to imagine, this allows for a quicker access to the interstate itself without having to make the turn in front of oncoming traffic.
While the overall corridor plan is simple in concept, it also provides flexibility within the corridor as market conditions and developers begin to analyze the landscape and make decisions that balance the city’s intent for creating a meaningful place while addressing the developer and employer needs of space and prestige. The central focus of the corridor, the place most Waukee residents will see value, is in the development of a large greenway.
Different from the well-known Clive Greenbelt, this system of regional detention ponds flanked with planned trails will become the hallmark of the community for outdoor recreation and linkage to entertainment venues. The green corridor will provide pedestrian access to the commercial retailers, employers and community venues that begin to take shape along Alice’s Road. As the final touches are placed on Alice’s Road, two prominent crossings underneath the road will make this green avenue a fun route to favorite destinations. In order to complete this planning, the city has also recently hired Confluence, a local planning/landscape architectural firm, that will be doing additional planning related to the Alice’s Road Corridor.
“The planning will include specific district plans as well as specific property plans,” Deets says. “They will also be doing all of the planning and design for all of the median landscaping, streetscaping and public amenities anticipated to be a part of the corridor along with additional marketing analysis and branding.”
During the past several years, the city has continued to see steady growth of its residential population. In just two short years, the Waukee community is estimated to have grown another 15.02 percent from the 2010 census count of 13,790. Based upon the 2012 census projection of 15,931, Waukee is poised to see close to 22,000 residents by 2020, a number that could have the community surpassing its metro counterparts Clive and Johnston. Waukee remains first in the state in percentage growth rate and fifth in total population gain.
“Residential growth has again taken off this year,” says Deets. “To date, the city has issued 132 single-family permits, which is three more than we issued in all of 2012, and we still have four months to go.”
New residential plats have also increased. So far in 2013, 109 single-family residential lots and 123 townhome lots have been approved. The city is also in various stages of approval of bringing on an additional 475 single-family residential lots over the next six to nine months.
“We’re seeing a lot more interest than we did years ago,” says Waukee Economic Development Corporation Executive Director Clark Smith. “There is some pent-up demand. The housing numbers are looking good, and with all the things going on with Alice’s Road, that’s spurring a lot of interest.”
One developer taking advantage of the housing landscape is Knapp Properties. Waukee’s newest residential subdivision, Prairie Crossing, is now in development in the northwest corner of Alice’s Road and Hickman Road. More than 70 residential lots will be available this November.
The Crossing at Alice’s Road will also feature retail, commercial and industrial lots. The retail component of this site is anchored to the east by the new Hy-Vee.
“Obviously the Hy-Vee has been a catalyst for a lot of activity in the area,” says Aimee Staudt, director of development for Knapp Properties. “Lots are in a shortage this year, and we wanted to get moving and get some inventory. It’s a good place to do business. The city is easy to work with, and things are just growing like crazy. We have 72 lots in Prairie Crossing, and we have only 10-11 that aren’t sold, and we don’t even have all the streets in.”
Companies located in Waukee are also seeing great things within their businesses. Some are expanding their facilities, while others are adding employees. Some are doing both. Waukee-based Access Systems is one such business.
Access Systems was founded in 1986 and is one of the oldest technology companies in the nation
“We definitely enjoy Waukee and the west side of Des Moines and like being located here,” says Director of Finance and Operations Jay Agard. “A lot of our employees live in the area, and we all enjoy the Waukee School District. It’s great to see the city of Waukee growing, and it’s great to be a part of something that’s growing.”
Because of its continued growth, the company has acquired a new 45,000-square-foot warehouse in Waukee. The company has doubled in the last couple years and expects to double again in the next few years.
“We’re in a good spot to continue making acquisitions and growing that way,” Agard says. “And we’re happy to be doing it in Waukee.”
Due the residential growth,the city has also worked hard to ensure residents have certain amenities available. Employees are interested in living where they work, and they’re interested in a community that is forward thinking when it comes to a great school district and quality of life projects.
In August, The City of Waukee held a ribbon cutting as part of the WaukeeFest celebration to officially open the new community center located at 675 Walnut Street. The building is a remodel of the former City Fire Station that occupied the space until 1998.
Waukee has been fortunate enough to receive a bequest from the Hiram Ori family to add a community gathering space onto the Waukee Public Library. The addition features a meeting room as well as a coalmining exhibit reflecting on the mining heritage of the Waukee area. The meeting room will be named the “Ori Coal Mine Meeting Room” in memorial of the late Hiram Ori and in honor of the coalmining heritage of the family. The interior of the building has been designed to reflect the inside of a mineshaft. The new addition is planned to be completed and open to the public in late October 2013.
“We’re the fastest growing town in Iowa for a reason,” Smith says. “Great schools and great amenities are a big draw for potential employees. The population growth alone causes a lot of the interest. The more people, the more businesses want to be here. We expect great things in the future.”