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Des Moines Social Club to sell Firehouse No. 1


The Des Moines Social Club announced today it will sell the historic Firehouse No. 1 property at Ninth and Mulberry streets in downtown Des Moines. Business Record file photo

The historic Firehouse No. 1 campus will be sold, with proceeds being used to create an endowment at the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines to support arts and culture, the Des Moines Social Club Transition Board of Directors announced today.

The board was formed in 2019 with a mission to reimagine the campus and the business model of the Des Moines Social Club, which transformed the historic building at Ninth and Mulberry streets into an arts and cultural center after the city turned it over to the club in 2012.

The decision to sell the building comes after “extensive research and due diligence,” according to a news release announcing the move.

The club’s mission was to provide arts programming to create community engagement. With the establishment of an endowment, that mission will  continue after the property is sold, said Rob Feeney, chair of the transition board, and president of chief operating officer of Atlantic Bottling Co.

“While the campus will be sold, we are grateful to be able to honor the spirit and intent to serve the arts, culture and the community by donating proceeds from the sale to establish the endowment,” Feeney said in the release. “We believe this endowment will honor the intent of those who supported this project with the knowledge that the arts strengthen our community in countless ways.”

According to the Polk County assessor’s office, the assessed value of the property is about $2.8 million.

The decision to sell the property comes nearly two years after the Des Moines Social Club confirmed the arts and entertainment center was losing money and was looking to adjust its offerings. Plans to create a public market on the property were put on hold in January 2020.

Paul Rottenberg, transition board member and president of Orchestrate Hospitality, which owns Malo, a restaurant that has remained open on the property, said the Des Moines Social Club and its transition board “remain committed to fostering a vibrant arts and cultural sector in our community.”

“We look forward to being part of the evolution of the campus and supporting the ongoing effort to serve the community in creative ways,” he said in the release.

Malo will remain in the building.

Kristi Knous, president of the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines and a member of the Des Moines Social Club’s transition board, said the decision to sell the building was a difficult but much needed one for the organization. She said she’s “thrilled the spirit of the organization’s original mission will continue on through this endowment.”

“When we think about the Des Moines Social Club, we think about innovation and access to arts and culture, and that was the intent, that it was to be for everybody,” Knous told the Business Record. “I really hope, and I know the intent is, that this will help find innovative ways to fund art and culture for the community at large.”

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