Crews have begun removing lead paint and other environmental contaminants from the former Younkers building in downtown Des Moines to clear the way for a historic rehabilitation that could be completed later this year. Justin Doyle, a principal with owner Blackbird Investments LLC, said permits have been pulled for the $18 million to $20 million project and that The Weitz Co. will begin construction once the abatement process is finished. Blackbird paid $2.5 million in July for the property after a fire in March 2104 destroyed half of the building and delayed a project originally introduced by The Alexander Co. of Madison, Wis. Blackbird has succeeded in obtaining state and federal historic tax credits, state development incentives and a $3 million federal grant that were originally awarded to Alexander. Blackbird is restoring a section of the block-long property that was originally called the Wilkins Building. The company plans 60 apartments and 11,500 square feet of retail on the first floor. The historic Younkers Tea Room also will be restored.