Des Moines Redevelopment Co. is the name of the partnership that purchased two properties listed in this article. The incorrect name appeared in the original story.
Des Moines Redevelopment Co., formed at the instigation of government and business leaders who played a key role in previous transformations of downtown Des Moines, has bought its first two pieces of property to hold for future development.
The group, which gathered seed money to purchase properties considered crucial to continued development, paid $2.1 million for the former Allied Insurance building at 700 Fourth St. on Nov. 14. That same day, it purchased a 71.4 percent interest in a parking lot at 700 Sixth Ave. for $569,490. St. Johns Evangelical Lutheran Church also holds an ownership interest in the parking lot. Des Moines Redevelopment also took out a $9 million line of credit with Bankers Trust Co. on that day.
A day later, a limited liability company controlled by Knapp Properties Inc. and Jim Cownie paid $1.6 million for a parking lot at 600 Fourth St. Businessmen Bill Knapp and Cownie were key players in formation of Des Moines Redevelopment Co.
Gerard Neugent, president and CEO of Knapp Properties, noted that the purchase of the parking lot consolidates Knapp holdings on the north side of downtown.
Ownership of the parking lot and former Allied office building also fits in with long-term plans for development of a convention hotel near the Iowa Events Center.
"We will pitch the site to prospective developers," said Matt Anderson, Des Moines assistant city manager in charge of development efforts in the city.
Development of such a hotel has eluded city leaders for years, and it could be several more years until a developer is found to build such a structure. However, ownership of parcels essential for such a project now is held by readily identifiable owners.
The development group is modeled after other entities that helped previous downtown development efforts, including the Western Gateway. Its goal is to consolidate ownership of properties scattered about the downtown until developers are found.
It has been a heady two months for promoters of downtown development. Employers Mutual Insurance Co. consolidated its hold on properties along the vacated bus transit mall on Walnut Street by making an offer on Hubbell Realty Co.'s Kaleidoscope at the Hub retail and office center.
It appears that Polk County judges might finally get their wish for more modern digs, with supervisors giving their approval to a building swap that could see some court functions move into the former J.C. Penney's building on Fifth Avenue, the county turning over ownership of the Polk County Convention Complex farther north on Fifth to Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield, and, eventually, the YMCA moving into the convention complex.
Neugent said there is a sense that downtown is on the cusp of another renaissance.
"Things are happening," he said.