Welcome to my column about the development projects that are changing central Iowa’s landscape. As the Des Moines Register’s growth and development reporter, I’m here to answer your questions. You can email me at ALathers@registermedia.com.
A $3.5 million proposal to turn the old North Des Moines City Hall into a commercial and residential structure has received a forgivable loan from the city of Des Moines to help address a gap in funding after the Iowa Economic Development Authority board voted to rescind a $200,000 tax credit it had given to developer Indigo Dawn.
The board reclaimed the tax credits in January after the company, which described itself as “centered on ecologically motivated neighborhood revitalization,” missed its initial Dec. 20 deadline to finish the renovation. Though Indigo Dawn requested an extension to 2024, IEDA spokesperson Staci Hupp Ballard said the agency planned to give the tax credits to other projects it believes are closer to completion.
The city loan, which amounts to $300,000, is equivalent to 100% of the project-generated tax increment financing for the building’s first 20 years in business. This project was previously received $160,000 from the Neighborhood Commercial Revitalization grant program. The two funding sources represent a little over 13% of the project’s cost.
The 4,800-square foot two-story building, which served as city hall for North Des Moines until it that municipality was absorbed into Des Moines in 1899, is expected to have a restaurant and another business on its first floor and four apartments on the second. Celebrity barbecue pitmaster Moe Cason in 2021 told the Des Moines Register he planned to open his first restaurant there but has since left the project.
Among setbacks in the development was a 2021 fire that broke out in front of the building, destroying a makeshift memorial honoring Black youth killed in recent years. Fire officials initially said the fire had left the building with “extensive damage.” But Breann Bye, executive director of the 6th Avenue Corridor Urban Neighborhood Main Street Program, said it turned out the fire damage was limited to plywood temporarily covering the building’s facade.
Construction is slated to wrap up in late 2024.
Another project landed $300,000 from the city of Des Moines, this time in the form of American Rescue Plan Act funds for a new five-story, mixed-use apartment building.
The structure will house 3,000 square feet of commercial retail space and 81 apartment units, eight of which the developers previously committed to making affordable for lower-income renters. The new grant agreement will increase the number of affordable units to 30 for a period of 15 years.
Twelve of the units will rent for 60% or less of the area median income as determined for Polk County by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Eighteen units will be restricted to households earning 80% or less of that amount.
Before the city approved the redevelopment plan late last year, the land had served as a parking lot and loading dock for at least 100 years. The developer, Green Acre Development, also is converting the Ex-Leiserowitz Co. building across the street at 213 13th St. into office space.
A local architectural firm has been selected to design the new north side recreation center, to be named the Reichardt Community Recreation Center, for $2 million. MA Architecture Inc. will provide architectural and engineering design as well as services throughout the construction phase.
The design must comply with the city’s sustainability and clean energy initiatives, identifying solar energy options for the community center. MA will also handle structural engineering, mechanical and electrical engineering, civil engineering and landscape architecture.
The firm already helped lead an eight-month planning process for the Des Moines Parks and Recreation Department to create early concepts for the center. The City Manager’s Office reviewed six proposals and recommended MA Architecture Inc. be awarded the project based on the team’s experience with similar developments and its involvement in the early stages of the project.
Its task, as outlined in a communication to city council members, is “to serve community needs and provide opportunities for recreation through a vibrant design.”
The budget for construction is $18 million with an additional $3 million for outdoor amenities. Work is scheduled to begin in late 2024 and take about 18 months to complete.


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