Johnston: Where Residents And Reviewers Find Excellent Quality of LifeMassive new park, retail renaissance and kite festival are highlights of NW suburb of Des Moines
For years, Johnston has attracted eyes and accolades from all over the country. In 2015, Money Magazine named Johnston the 16th "Best Place to Live" in America. President Obama chose his 2010 National Teacher of the Year, Sarah Brown Wessling, from the halls of our schools. Last fall, Business Insider ranked Johnston the 25th Best Suburb in America and the top suburb in Iowa.
We are always humbled when researchers cite our low cost of living, strong home values, safe neighborhoods, 36-mile trail system, award-winning schools and wonderful quality of life.
We're building on this strong foundation with the groundbreaking of a $5.4 million improvement to Terra Park, located at 6300 Pioneer Parkway. This will create an eight-acre fishing lake, a great lawn for concerts and games, an open-air amphitheater, fishing pier, soft and hard trails, playgrounds, and many native Iowa plantings. Residents are already picturing themselves here, relaxing with friends on a hot summer night, listening to great music not far from home.
Terra Lake Video
Just down the road, a retail renaissance is forming. In 2013, the city council approved plans for the redevelopment of the Merle Hay Road Gateway Area. The vote set the stage for a dramatic transformation to the front door of our city.
Just off Interstate 35/80 on Merle Hay Road, residents and visitors could one day kayak to their favorite restaurant, pop into a new hotel with an ecological theme, or spend time at a destination community park with unique elements such as a skate park, BMX track, dog park, and trailhead.
Merle Hay Road Gateway Video
The master plan expands recreation and tourism with the addition of canoe and kayak launches along Beaver Creek for more opportunities to get on the water. A planned outdoor recreation retailer could even use portions of the creek to test equipment and provide training for those interested in water sports on the creek or nearby Saylorville Lake. It is a development that will truly be a destination, not just for residents but for our visitors and friends.
So, what's attracting developers to Johnston? It no doubt has to do with the quality of life our residents enjoy. A 2015 community survey showed 90% of residents are satisfied or very satisfied with the quality of life here. That's 11% above the national average.
That survey shows we rank above the national average in 37 of 45 areas, including quality of city services, feelings of safety, cleanliness of city streets, the value of city services, quality of fire and police protection, and overall image of the city.
Johnston is a solid, stable place to raise a family. During the recent recession, home values actually grew here as they plummeted all over the country. We have the second highest median income in the Des Moines metro. Thanks to good leadership, Johnston has an AA+ bond rating and the fourth lowest tax rate in the metro.
We are economically strong. But it's the experiences that can be had here that make Johnston the place to be. The city's kite festival, Kites On The Green, attracts nearly 3,000 people to Johnston Commons the first Saturday in May. It was the brainchild of Mayor Paula Dierenfeld who envisioned an event where people come together for a family-friendly festival and watch beautiful colors fill the sky.
Kites on the Green Video
Every May, residents wait patiently for the very popular Farmers' Market to open just outside city hall. In June, they fill the grassy area near the library for Green Days, a community celebration that's been a staple in town since 1996. In July, they'll sit outside on a hot night to catch cool jazz when Jazz In July comes to town.
Johnston is where families pack the football stadium on fall Friday nights. It's where they gather in the spring to beautify our parks and trails. It's where success is within arm's reach. Just ask 2005 Johnston High School graduate Sgt. Ryan Steinkamp, who received the prestigious Silver Star for heroic actions in Afghanistan.
The best part of our city is and always has been the people. Even the national researchers have found this to be true and include it in their findings. "What makes Johnston truly unique is the community feel," the latest poll said.
Whether you're looking for somewhere to call home, or just want a place to enjoy for the day, we invite you to come to see what researchers and residents are raving about.