‘This is where it’s all going to happen’: Johnston Town Center opens as start of new downtown district

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JOHNSTON, Iowa — The booming suburb of Johnston continued its expansion with a new downtown district: Johnston Town Center.

“We’ve never had a downtown,” said Johnston Mayor Paula Dierenfeld. “We’ve had crossroads in our community, but never a central city in our community.”

The city officially opened the development on Saturday after breaking ground on the project in 2019.

The first phase of the Johnston Town Center includes a new city hall, a splash pad, two sculptures, and a festival green called “The Yard” with a stage for concerts.

Dierenfeld said big plans for the property on Merle Hay Road were in the works before she was elected mayor in 2008.

“We’ve been planning this for about 15 years,” Dierenfeld said. “We’ve been patient, we’ve been incremental, and now it’s amazing that it is finally built.”

In that time, Johnston has grown from about 8,500 residents in the 2000 census to nearly 25,000 residents in the 2020 census.

Dierenfeld said the city will break ground at Johnston Town Center again this fall for a new building on the prominent corner of Merle Hay Road and NW 62nd Street.

“It’s an opportunity for retail, shopping, restaurants, and entertainment,” Dierenfeld said. “This is where it’s all going to happen in Johnston.”

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