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$16.9 million historic renovation planned for Grand Tree Apartments in Des Moines


Apartment buildings at 2225, 2305 and 2315 Grand Ave. in Des Moines would undergo a $16.9 million renovation under a proposal presented this week to the city’s Urban Design Review Board. Architectural rendering by Substance Architecture


A Des Moines development group is planning a $16.9 million historic renovation of three three-story brick apartment buildings at 2225, 2305 and 2315 Grand Ave. in a project similar to one underway about five blocks west on Grand Avenue.

Tree House Partners LLC, which includes developers Tim Rypma, Paul Cownie and Jeremy Cortright, plans to renovate the interior of the three apartment buildings including replacing electrical, plumbing and mechanical systems and adding air conditioning. In addition, elevators would be added to each building, as would fire sprinklers. 

Improvements are also planned for the buildings’ exteriors and to the garage.

“We’re very excited about this opportunity, which is similar to our project at 2801 Grand Ave. known as the Reagan House,” Rypma told members of Des Moines Urban Design Review Board this week. “We’ve been exploring this building for about a year and … plan to move forward later this summer.” 

An $8.3 million historic renovation of apartment buildings at 2801 Grand Ave. owned by the development group is currently underway. Rypma said he expects the renovation of the property to be completed by September. That property, also with three buildings, includes 47 efficiency and one-bedroom apartments.

The buildings at 2315 Grand Ave. were built in 1923 and designed by Vorse, Kraetsch & Kraetsch, the architecture firm is known for its work on the iconic Butler Mansion at 2633 Fleur Drive in Des Moines.

The apartment buildings “are part of the architectural heritage of the city that includes those architects,” said Tim Hickman, a principal of Substance Architecture in Des Moines. “We are taking very seriously the historic importance of these buildings as we look to renovate them.”

One of the unique aspects of the buildings is the arches that join the buildings, Hickman said. 
The southside of the buildings, which face Grand Avenue, will be cleaned and the masonry repaired, Hickman said. Also, the doors will be replaced and some windows that were replaced with louvers will be “restored to their original condition,” he said.

Similar exterior work will be done on the north side of the buildings, Hickman said.

The complex is known as the Grand Tree Apartments and each building is named after a tree: the Elmwoods, the Oaks and the Birches. The decorative stonework above each building entrance (pictured at right) includes mold work of the leaves from the trees for which each structure is named. 

The 93-unit complex would include 60 efficiency units, 27 one-bedroom units and six two-bedroom units.

The development group, in a preliminary development agreement approved by the City Council earlier this month, has agreed to rent nine units to people who earn no more than 50% of area’s median income and 10 units to those who earn no more than 80% of the area’s median income. The remaining units would be priced at competitive rates.

The development group also agreed to install at least two charging stations for electric vehicles.

Preliminary terms of the economic development agreement between the city and developers provides Tree House Partners with up to $2.4 million in tax increment financing over 12 years. The developers are also pursuing state and federal historic tax credits. 

The 2.7-acre parcel, which has been owned by Des Moines-based Randolph Investment Co. since 1996, was valued at $2.2 million in 2020. When the renovations are completed, the properties’ valuation is expected to increase to more than $11.5 million, according to information provided to the review board. 

The board this week approved the project’s final design and financial assistance package.

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