City staff recommends that former Fairground Hardware property not be considered for landmark status
KATHY A. BOLTEN Apr 1, 2022 | 3:30 pm
2 min read time443 wordsAll Latest News, Law & Government, Real Estate & Development
A wall of a century-plus-old building near the Iowa State Fairgrounds has a large bulge in it and cracks have developed in the upper portion of another wall, making the structure a poor candidate for renovation, according to Des Moines’ city staff.
Costs to repair the two-story structure at 2951 E. Walnut St. would be “substantial,” the city staff wrote in its recommendation not to consider the building as a local landmark.
The Des Moines City Council, at its meeting on Monday, will consider the staff recommendation.
The building’s owners have said they want to demolish the structure, which for 75 years was home to Fairground Hardware. If the council agrees not to refer the issue to the Landmark Review Board, the property’s owners will likely seek a demolition permit, city staff members have said.
Last summer, the city declared the building a public nuisance. In early March, the council authorized city staff to take the necessary legal steps either to get the building repaired or have it demolished.
While city staff members believe the building meets several criteria to be designated a landmark, “the building is in horrible condition right now,” Michael Ludwig, Des Moines’ deputy director of development services, said recently. “The amount [of money] that will be required to restore that building is substantial.”
The city has received comments from people who want the building saved. However, no formal plans with financial backing have been presented to city staff, according to information provided to the council.
The building was constructed around 1896 by the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, according to the staff report. Other tenants have included A.R. Corning’s Cash Grocery and Feed Store, Fairground Grocery, Hawkeye Bakery and Lunch, Curtis Pharmacy, and the American Federation of Hosiery Workers.
“Newspaper clippings suggest that the basement was used as a locker room for semi-professional football teams who played games at the fairgrounds in the 1920s and 1930s,” according to the staff report. Fairground Hardware operated out of the building from 1943 to 2018.
An investment group bought the property in 2017 and intended to redevelop it. Instead, in 2020 the group sold the property to Rueter Farms Inc. and C&D’s Holdings LLC.
If the council does not refer the issue to the Landmark Review Board, Rueter Farms and C&D Holdings will be required to document and photograph the inside and outside of the building and provide the information to the city, according to the staff report. The building’s owners must also salvage for reuse “as many fixtures and other material as possible” from the building, according to the report.
When those steps are completed, a demolition permit can be issued.