Urban Dreams’ new 11,000-square foot facility, set open in late June, features esports, murals and services


By Melody Mercado, Des Moines Register

Since 1985 Urban Dreams, a local nonprofit dedicated to serving the underserved in Des Moines, has rented office space in the Riverbend neighborhood.

Soon, it will have a place of its own.


By late June, the nonprofit plans to move into a renovated building at 1615 2nd Ave., which it bought in mid December.

The 11,000-square foot building,  named the Wellmark Urban Dreams Community Center, will not only have state of the art amenities for the community, but it is also 10,000 square feet larger than its current rented facility at 601 Forest Ave.

“It’s taken a long time to get here, but it’s been well worth it,” Izaah Knox, executive director of Urban Dreams said.

So far, the organization has secured about $1.1 million in funding for the space. Leaders are hoping to raise $2 million to be able to check everything off their list.

“To have a beautiful space that an organization, that is so trusted in the community, owns…matters,” Knox said. “That gives hope to people in the community that they can do the same kind of things.”

Currently, the nonprofit is operating in what Knox calls “tight quarters”. Staff members are coupled up in offices that also, at times, operate as a classroom space.


Many of the rooms in the new space boast with bright, natural light, Knox noted as he excitedly showed off the new building. He gestured expansively to point out the large, open areas around the building that will provide multiple services, from events to esports.


One of those spaces on the far right side of the building will be dedicated to an esports lab complete with a virtual reality hub and golf simulators.

In designing the new building, Knox said it was important to be able to offer urban kids the same type of amenities that kids have in the suburbs.

“I mean every college in the metro now…Simpson, Drake, Grandview…they’re all working on esports clubs and esports programs,” he said.

The virtual golf simulators have gotten an endorsement from North High School’s golf coach, Knox said.

“Having golf simulators at Urban Dreams would give the kids a great opportunity to be introduced to golf,” Jon Augspurger, Des Moines North’s golf coach said in a statement Knox provided to the Des Moines Register. “The biggest hurdle I have to get kids interested in going out for golf is that I can’t show them what it’s about. I can only tell them, and that is difficult to do.”

The left side of the building will be dedicated to professional services, such as mental health and substance abuse treatment. That area will also have a built-in food pantry where residents can come and pick out items instead of the current system, where workers pick the items for them because of the tight space in the old building.

There will also be a large community event space in the back of the building, which will be able to seat about 175 people. The event space will connect to an outdoor area through large overhead sliding doors.

The new space will feature art from the community on two outdoor and one inside spot dedicated for murals.

Melody Mercado covers Des Moines city government for the Register. Reach her at [email protected] or Twitter @melodymercadotv.

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