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10 projects that will transform downtown Des Moines – The Des Moines Register




Get ready for a transformation in downtown Des Moines.

A development boom is reshaping the area, with cranes dotting the skyline and more expected next year, according to city staff and builders.

Already, it has been a record-breaking year with Des Moines construction costs reaching $586 million through October. That has toppled the previous record set in 2007 by more than $100 million, according to city permits.

Much of that money is being poured into downtown.

Des Moines' skyline has a new look the morning afterDes Moines’ skyline has a new look the morning after the former site of the downtown YMCA was imploded Sunday Oct. 4, 2015. (Rodney White/The Register)

“You have office development, some spec office development … a lot of hotel development, residential development is still strong. You have retail, restaurant and entertainment,” Assistant City Manager Matt Anderson said. “This is a much more sustainable period of growth that we’re in.”

This week, Anderson reviewed 10 big things on the horizon for downtown with Tim Leach, director of economic development for the Downtown Community Alliance, and local developer Justin Mandelbaum, as part of a panel hosted by the Downtown Chamber.

Here’s their list of the 10 big things expected to reshape downtown Des Moines in 2016 and beyond:

YMCA Riverfront site, 101 Locust St.

The nearly 60-year-old YMCA building has been leveled, and cleanup is underway. The property still belongs to the YMCA of Greater Des Moines but remains under contract for purchase by Hubbell Realty.

No building project has been announced for the prime slice of riverside land. But city officials have called the site the most iconic with transformational potential for downtown.

“Whether it’s five stories or 20 stories, it needs to be the type of building that when somebody visits from out of town, they take a picture of it and text it to their friends,” Anderson said.

City Square in East Village, full block between East Locust and East Walnut streets

The mixed-use development under construction by Hansen Real Estate will include the five-story, 111-room Staybridge Suites hotel, a market-rate apartment complex with 124 units and a parking garage with 300-some stalls. The $49 million development is expected to open by July.

City officials say the project represents an important southern expansion for the East Village footprint, because it’s one of the first and largest commercial spaces, with primary entrances facing Walnut Street.

River Point West, south of Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway

Momentum is building with several developments after a residential project by Sherman Associates started in 2007 then floundered with the recession.

A Holiday Inn Express at 333 S.W. 11th St. is expected to open by the end of January, and this month Sherman broke ground on a delayed mixed-income apartment building, The Edge. The estimated $14 million building is expected to have 90 units.

Sherman next week also plans to break ground on a 75,000-square-foot spec office building, Gray’s Landing Office Center, that will be the first of its kind in many years for downtown.

Hubbell Realty remains active in River Point with its Cityville on 9th project, opening more than 100 apartment units. Chicago Dog restaurant and other small retailers also have opened as part of the mixed-use development.

Downtown Parking Ramps with large mixed-use projects

Two city-owned parking garages — one at Fifth and Walnut streets, another at Seventh Street and Grand Avenue — have reached the end of their life span. And both will be replaced with new ramps attached to major private investments.

Demolition will last through the winter on the Grand Avenue ramp that spanned Seventh Street. Construction on a new six-story city garage will begin in April and likely open in fall 2017. It will then be topped with a 10-story, $35 million luxury apartment building planned by Nelson Construction & Development.

The ramp at Fifth and Walnut will be replaced with a seven-story garage beneath a 25-story mixed-use project by Mandelbaum. Plans for the $85 million development include a movie theater, an apartment tower with about 200 units, a restaurant and jazz club, a climbing wall and a day care facility.

Wrecking crews work on the demolition project of theWrecking crews work on the demolition project of the parking garage at 7th St. and Grand Ave. in Des Moines, Iowa, Monday, Oct. 19, 2015.  (Rachel Mummey/The Register)

Market district, south of East Village from Court Avenue to MLK Parkway

The city is the biggest property owner in this industrial area, with multiple buildings and lots for public works and other services. The city plans to move its operations to make way for developers who have shown interest in the area.

Modus Engineering earlier this year revealed plans for a $15 million project that will renovate a century-old steam tractor warehouse into the firm’s new office. Planners expect the area to become an extension of the East Village, as the industrial land is converted for “new urbanism” use.

DesMoinesArts, 900 Keo Way

Mandelbaum is forging ahead with his vision for a combined affordable studio-and-loft space for artists downtown. DesMoinesArts now owns the four-story building at 900 Keo roughly five years after the group established as a nonprofit with an advisory committee.

The operation will remain a nonprofit with the goal of offering affordable space to Des Moines-area creatives. Fundraising efforts continue as renovations ramp up in the building. Mandelbaum said a best-case scenario would open some space in the building by the end of summer 2016.

Des Moines art incubator proposal.JPG                               This photo illustration shows the proposed art incubator at 900 Keosaqua Way. (Photo: DesMoinesArts and PUSHpixel/Special to The Register)

Hy-Vee downtown, 420 Court Ave

There’s a big hole in front of the Polk County Courthouse, where downtown’s first full-service grocery store is expected to open by November 2016.

The new Hy-Vee will offer most of what customers find in its suburban markets, from the Market Grill and coffee shop to a florist and pharmacy. Grocery offerings may be scaled back to fewer brands and varieties. The 35,000-square-foot store will also have 85 to 90 apartment units above and an attached parking ramp.

Downtown residential living

City staff are fielding questions about the condo market, options for young homeowners and affordable housing. Anderson says strategic planning is underway to assure a “downtown housing stock to match the workforce.”

That means a housekeeper must have options, as well as a young professional with his or her first corporate job and retiring empty nesters.

Anderson said he’s encouraged to see a vacancy percentage near 0 percent with the current housing stock.

Downtown retail

The retail market will grow with the residential and entertainment activity, according to developers and city planners. But don’t expect H&M, Gap or other major clothing chains in the immediate future, Anderson says.

The niche for now is specialty stores for items such as kitchen goods or T-shirt stores like Raygun and Locally Grown in the East Village. The big push for retail downtown continues along Walnut Street, where the City Council this week approved $4.5 million for streetscape improvements and Wells Fargo announced plans for a museum.

Changing downtown skyline

The demolition of the Riverfront YMCA last month changed the Des Moines skyline, and the project that replaces it will do the same.

But before that’s complete, Mandelbaum’s 32-story building could be finished or Nelson’s apartment project reaching 16 stories above the new city parking garage.

The series of high-rise plans follows nearly a two-decade lull since a new building downtown exceeded 15 stories.

“For better or for worse, a lot of people judge a city by its skyline,” Mandelbaum said.

Timothy Meinch | November 16, 2015

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