The Year Ahead

Plans for the new MoLo Hotel in a former Howard Johnson’s Motor Lodge retain its distinctive Polynesian-style roofline from the 1960s. Rendering: Slingshot Architecture

Ready or not, here comes 2024. We’re looking forward to a dozen new developments — one for each month, give or take. The dates listed reflect our best estimates at press time.

January or February: The Ballet Des Moines Central Campus for Arts and Education opens downtown in the Kaleidoscope, at 655 Walnut St. The renovated space includes a studio theater, rehearsal studio and costume storage, as well as shared offices for local nonprofits. “The new space will serve as a shared community asset for nonprofits, educators, artists and community leaders who share our commitment to improving outcomes and quality of life across the region,” ballet CEO Blaire Massa told the Business Record last summer.

Feb. 29: The Val Air Ballroom reopens with a Leap Day concert at 301 Ashworth Road, in the re-energized Val-Gate District around 63rd Street and Grand Avenue. Read all about it on Page 74.

March or April: HUGO’s Wood-Fired Kitchen opens at 3206 University Ave., in the same building that houses WesleyLife’s new headquarters for Meals on Wheels. The Mediterranean restaurant is the newest project of chef Lynn Pritchard of Table 128 and 503 Cocktail Lab + Tasting Room.

Athene North Shore Recreation Area. Rendering: Shive-Hattery

Spring: The Athene North Shore Recreation Area opens at Easter Lake. A team from Shive-Hattery designed it to be one of the most accessible parks in the country, with an accessible playground, adaptive recreation equipment, wide sidewalks, wheelchair-friendly mats for the beach and ramps to ease access to the water. “We are laser focused on drawing all people to enjoy nature and recreate outdoors,” said Kami Rankin, Polk County Conservation’s deputy director.

Late Spring or Early Summer: “Hello, River” goes up near downtown’s Center Street dam and the Iowa Women of Achievement Bridge. Part of the ICON Water Trails, the sculpture by the Twin Cities art collective Plus/And resembles a giant pearlescent mussel shell, big enough for visitors to step into. Inside, they can press a button to hear an audio recording of the river that corresponds — with a trickle or rush — to the level of the river’s current flow, according to live data from the U.S. Geological Survey.

June 16: The NASCAR Cup Series makes its roaring debut at the Iowa Speedway in Newton, following a NASCAR Xfinity Series race on June 15. The Cup Series is the largest on the NASCAR circuit, with worldwide viewership and revenue second only to the Formula 1 races, based in Europe.

July 12-13: The 80/35 Music Festival moves to Water Works Park after 14 years in downtown’s Western Gateway. Headliners will perform at the Lauridsen Amphitheater, surrounded by smaller stages nearby.

Aug. 8-18: The Iowa State Fair theme is Fair Fever, “with a ’70s vibe to celebrate our 170th anniversary,” said Mindy Williamson, the fair’s marketing director. In addition to trying the Best New Foods — there were 60 entries in the 2023 contest — this year’s fairgoers can sample the Best New Beverages.

September: The Kate Goldman Children’s Theatre reopens at the Des Moines Playhouse. Extensive renovations include a bigger lobby, more classroom space, a new costume shop and upgrades to the theater seats, sound system and lighting.

Athene Pedestrian Bridge. Rendering: Shive-Hattery

Fall: The Athene Pedestrian Bridge opens across the Raccoon River in West Des Moines, linking Raccoon River Park to Walnut Woods State Park and dozens of miles of trails. Among other things, the trail will enable cyclists from the western suburbs to zip down for Taco Tuesdays at the Cumming Tap.

By October: The Karras-Kaul Connector Trail paves the last link between the Easter Lake Spine Trail in southeast Des Moines and the Carlisle Nature Trail. Named for RAGBRAI founders John Karras and Don Kaul, the 3-mile connector includes a tunnel under Army Post Road, enabling cyclists and others to travel from Indianola up to Saylorville Lake and beyond.

November: The MoLo Hotel opens in a former Howard Johnson’s Motor Lodge at 2525 Grand Ave. The swanky mid-century building originally opened in 1962, was converted to apartments in 1988 and will soon reopen with 85 hotel rooms, plus a courtyard with fire pits and an outdoor pool, heated year-round like the ones you might find at a ski resort.

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