Historic Valley Junction/West Des Moines

2012 Great American Main Street Award

West Des Moines, Iowa

Award Type: GAMSA

The Numbers Over 24 Years

  • Main Street bega: 1987
  • Population: 56,609
  • Net new jobs: 406
  • Net new businesses: 197
  • Vacancy rate when Main Street started: 10%
  • Vacancy rate now: 3%
  • Housing units: 23
  • Public investment: $43,000,000
  • Private investment: $13,800,000

Read the press release

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In Their Own Words

Historic Valley Junction is a community of survivors!  Forever perceived as the underdog, Valley Junction survives through the face of great adversity.  Left a ghost town when the Rock Island Railroad relocated during the Great Depression, Valley Junction survived, albeit, as a district filled with bars, saloons and houses of ill repute.   

From the city’s name change (to West Des Moines) in 1938 through the 1960s, our district was eclectic to say the least filled with antique stores, flea markets and part-time businesses.  A major blow was the opening of nearby Valley West Mall in the early 1970s coupled with rapid retail expansion surrounding the district. Following that, other challenges included the 1980s farm crisis, drastic changes in shopping habits, the devastating flood of 1993 and the opening, in 2004, of the state’s largest shopping center just a few short miles away.   

Since becoming a Main Street community, the face of Valley Junction has changed from antique stores and part-time hobby businesses to the largest number of specialty stores in the metro area and a premier arts, entertainment and cultural district.   

When faced with such challenges, many districts would dissipate and fade away.  Our independent, entrepreneurial community has faced these challenges head-on, determined to survive and thrive. In the current economic climate, our district continues to be creative, determined and focused on the future.  Our retailers and events bring thousands of people to this district and we remain a remarkable American Main Street.

They're Not Done Yet!

Q: What are your district’s strategic initiatives for the next five years?

A: In addition to our comprehensive paid multi-media advertising plan, our marketing/branding efforts continue to be focused on social media: Constant Contact, Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, text messages, QR codes and an expansion of our already impressive, interactive, customer-friendly website.  As the population continues to diversify, so does our district and we focus on innovative ways to reach new customers.   

Valley Junction is a prime location for rehabilitated and new mixed-use construction in an established district.  Our focus remains on market rate and affordable housing units.  Through partnerships with the City of West Des Moines and private developers, several long-term projects are currently under discussion.  Private and public money, along with tax credits and incentives, will be used for these projects.   

A major long-term emphasis remains green initiatives and sustainability projects. Historically-sensitive building renovations, green improvements, LED lighting upgrades, rain gardens, permeable pavers and additional PV solar panels are projects happening or forthcoming.  The 2011 opening of Tallgrass Grocery Cooperative paves the way for shoppers to buy local, eat local and brings the best of our weekly farmers market to consumers all week long.   

HVJF and our partners are positioned to move above and beyond in business development, district promotion and encouraging exciting projects that will drive us forward. This district is a demonstrated success story and we stake our claim as the mixed-use destination of choice for the state of Iowa and a national model for sustainability of locally based retailers.    

As always, we will survive…….and thrive!