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DES MOINES, Iowa – It’s not every job that requires racing against a race ... and creatnge a landscape compatible with the 19th-century architecture of Iowa’s state capitol.

Starting last fall and with a firm deadline to have the job completed in time for a nationally televised triathlon in June, locally-based landscape architecture firm Brian Clark + Associates (BCA) and Larson & Larson Construction LLC of nearby Urbandale, Iowa, had the enviable job of tearing out a large state parking lot and replacing it with a 10-acre park area.

Iowa projectClick image for gallery800 BC S1-w-capHowever, time wasn’t the only constraint on the job. The designers were faced with developing a look that fit not only with the adjacent capitol grounds, but also blended with two previously completed downtown landscape projects.

The team ended up winning their race to landscape with time to spare. And, officials feel the project goes a long way toward tying downtown Des Moines to its most-important tenant.

The project is the most-recent addition to the area surrounding the state capitol. The grounds of the building itself encompass 165 acres, and include memorials to veterans of conflicts from the Civil War to World War II, a replica of the Statue of Liberty and even a Japanese temple bell given in thanks to relief sent overseas in the late 1950s.

At the start, getting rid of the 500-stall parking lot and funding park space to replace it was not a quick sell. Both Matt Carlile, project manager with BCA, and Mollie Anderson, director of the Iowa Department of Administrative Services, say it’s been in the hopper for several years.

Anderson says the project dates back to 1998 and the completion of an $80 million renovation of the capitol building. With work completed on the building, attention turned to the concept from Alfred H. Piqueard, the original architect, for a grand front lawn.

“We started working on the master plan and looking at how it could connect with the East Village,” says Anderson. “We wanted to make the capitol part of the city, rather than an island unto itself.”

The East Village is one of two major landscape projects completed in Des Moines in recent years. It provides green space from the river to the capitol with an emphasis on landscaping and lighting. The Western Gateway project provides similar amenities on the western side of downtown.

Anderson explains that the area – between downtown and the capitol – has served various purposes over the years. What was once housing was later replaced with fences used to carry lobbying messages to lawmakers walking to the capitol. The parking lot was installed in the 1970s.