In April, city leaders unveiled their plans for Kettlestone — Waukee’s innovative mixed-use neighborhood where visitors will find everything from world-class shopping, dining and entertainment to expansive parks, ponds and trails.
Located near Interstate 80 and just minutes outside the greater Des Moines metro, city officials hope Kettlestone will serve as a unique tourist attraction as well as a favorite hometown hangout. Named after its glacial knob and kettle terrain, Kettlestone will be comprised of 10 distinct districts featuring more than 1,500 acres of trails, retail and office spaces, housing and entertainment.
Thanks to more than a decade of strategic planning and development studies, Kettlestone will be a neighborhood where people want to live, work and relax, a walkable environment with wide-ranging housing options, mixed land use and a civic and cultural presence that enhances the quality of life for Waukee residents and visitors alike.
Kettlestone has been in the works for quite some time. In fact, the city has had its eye on this area since 1993, according to Mayor Bill Peard. Since then, city leaders have secured funding and have done much strategic planning in regards to the 1,500 acres that run from Hickman Road to I-80. Most of the focus is open land between University Avenue and I-80.
Much has been done in the last several years to design an interchange at Grand Prairie Parkway, formerly Alice’s Road. Construction on the interchange will start later this fall, says development Services Director Brad Deets. The targeted completion date for the project is the end of 2015.
One additional phase of paving from the interchange to Ashworth Road will follow the same timeline for completion. The other piece of paving from Ashworth to University is currently under construction and will be completed by the end of this year, Deets says.
“It’s been a long time coming,” says Dan Dutcher, Community and Economic Development Director. “I was on the city council, and we as a group wanted to do something different. The interchange is great, but we wanted to create something unique. We’ve done a lot of work over the last several years and recently signed a contract with Confluence, a Des Moines landscape architecture firm, to look at street level planning.”
Currently city leaders are working on the components necessary for development to occur. The construction projects are a part of that, as are design standards.
“After we’ve finalized the master plan concept, we’re working on design standards, architectural guidelines, access management and more,” Deets says. “That will be vetted through leaders and property owners and adopted by city council. Those tools provide guidelines for anyone who wants to come in and develop property within the corridor.”
What has emerged is a mixed-use development with an eye on convenience and amenities. Over the next 30 years, Kettlestone could be developed to serve as a social, cultural and civic center, adding 25,000 new jobs, 7,000 houses and apartments, 3.8 million square feet of retail space and 5.5 million square feet of office space. That means an increase of as many as 17,500 people in Waukee and the creation of 25,000 new jobs.
A unique opportunity
So what makes Kettlestone different from other mixed use areas like Prairie Trail in Ankeny or West Glen in West Des Moines? For starters: location, location, location.
“There is direct interstate access,” says City Manager Tim Moerman. “There are 40,000 – 50,000 cars per day on I-80, and it will have instant traffic control that will help it grow quickly as a business area. Things will grow toward Grand Prairie Parkway, and more development will happen from the east to the west and on both sides of the parkway. It’s going to be a central spot for a lot of people very quickly.”
Dutcher says Kettlestone will also feature an extensive greenway and storm water ponds. A key guiding principle of the 2011 Alice’s Road Corridor Master Plan was the integration of infrastructure systems with private and public development spaced in a central spine greenway that follows topography and the natural drainageway. As such, the proposed development master plan is built upon a greenway which provides both storm water management and recreational opportunities.
The storm water ponds (kettles) will attract wildlife and will also give the city the chance to build trails and other amenities around them, making them another way to connect parts of the development.
“We want to differentiate this corridor from a lot of others,” Dutcher says. “We have three underpasses that will be built and probably four to five more that will be built, too. Trails will go under the roads to create a walkable community. When it comes to the mixed use piece of it, we want people to live there, shop there, walk there.”
Peard says city leaders were also attuned to the fact that they wanted Kettlestone to be a meeting place for people of all ages. It is designed to foster a sense of community.
“We’re a civic community where recreational opportunities are important,” he says. “Recreation is an important part of our community, and it’s also a way for people to connect. It’s unique. We think it’s what this community already has, and we’re expanding that into a bigger well-planned venue.”
Moerman says the addition of a community gathering space also accomplishes this goal.
“We’re working to identify several acres in the development that can be used for public space, an area where people can listen to a concert or art in the park or have a fun run,” he says. “The mayor and council have been clear that we want to keep that small-town feel and sense of community. Those venues help preserve that.”
Land in the development will be used for single-family homes, multi-family homes, mixed use, retail, office space and parks and open space. Kettlestone consists of nine distinct districts developed to break down the area into common land use regions. The larger retail areas will have a different design standard than the residential districts. Each district will certainly be unique, and the design standards that will soon be completed will be based on these districts.
The districts include Kettlestone Lakes, Shops at Kettlestone, Kettlestone Plaza, Kettlestone Commons, The Canopies at Kettlestone, Kettlestone Business Park, Kettlestone Village, Glacier Park, Glacier Springs and Glacier Point.
Though businesses, homes and amphitheaters aren’t going to spring up overnight, Peard assures Waukee residents that the city is working hard to do its due diligence in planning to ensure that development is ready to happen when the infrastructure is in place.
“I’ve been told by so many people that it’s very well-planned,” he says. “We’ve had great planning sessions, and I’m really proud of the staff and council for planning this out. We’re poised for great things to start happening.”
Dutcher says the first phase of the greenway is under construction now. The city hopes to have a significant part of it finished when the interchange opens.
“What we hope happens is the planning dovetails well with the completion of interchange,” Moerman says. “Another thing that’s unique is we’re working with eight or nine property owners very closely to make sure the decisions we make meet their needs and our needs, and we think development will happen more quickly because we’re all on board together.”
Waukee leaders have crafted what they call a unique turn-key development approach to aid in the continued successful growth of the city. This new development approach is currently at work in Kettlestone. The turn-key development approach begins with supplying potential developers with useful information including soil borings, environmental assessments, topographical and utility information, along with boundary and ownership information all at the city’s cost.
“Our goal is to break down barriers to development,” says Dutcher. “Our turn-key development approach is a due-diligence checklist for developers supplied by the city.”
Peard also says the goal is to blend this area with the other areas that already exist in Waukee, not be a separate area to replace any other area, like the old Waukee triangle.
“Very few times in a city’s history does a city get a chance to start with a blank slate and paint what picture they want their town to see,” he says. “We’re creating part of the city that everyone has had input in developing. There are the people that were here before us and established Waukee and have lived here and built the foundation. We continue to build on that.”