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Downtown condo project features ‘interior terraces’


Talk about an extreme makeover. The EDS Building on the southeast corner of 10th and Mulberry streets, long burdened with a green-tile exterior and pint-sized windows, is scheduled to become one big sun-catcher over the next year and a half.

Robert Bergazyn, a veteran of warehouse-to-condominium renovations in Chicago, chose the onetime home of Look magazine for his first Des Moines project and bought the structure for $650,000. Now his company, Verde Partners LLC, plans to spend $15 million to transform it into 61 or 62 condo units as part of the city’s downtown housing boom.

Baldwin White Architects developed a concept that will punch sizable openings into the exterior and create interior terraces flush with the outer wall. Glass “railings” will mark the outer edge, and more glass will separate the terrace from the condo’s interior, allowing sunlight to pour in.

Inside, workers will transform office space into units ranging in size from about 850 square feet to about 1,700 square feet. The ground floor is to be used for 84 parking spaces. The original part of the building stands five stories tall; a three-story addition on the south end dates from the 1950s.

Bergazyn expects to sell the condos for $190 to $200 per square foot, which would translate into a price range of approximately $161,500 to $340,000. Verde Partners received a 10-year tax abatement when it purchased the building, and condo buyers will get the same deal. The company hopes that construction will begin by May and be complete in the spring of 2006.

As the green disappears from the exterior, Bergazyn plans to add “green” elements to the interior, in the form of energy-efficient materials, equipment and design. To conform to the U.S. Green Building Council’s standards, he’ll employ everything from bamboo floors to a reconfigured heating and cooling system. “We’ll remove the boilers and install modular boilers that operate at maximum efficiency as demand changes,” he said.

Bergazyn, 72, has been involved in construction projects throughout his career. He moved from Chicago to Des Moines five years ago when his wife, Carroll Stoner, took a job at Meredith Corp.’s Traditional Home magazine.

“For a year and a half, I went back and forth every week,” Bergazyn said. “But with e-mail such a big part of business now, I finally told my clients in Chicago, ‘What do you care where I’m located?’ I’ve been here full time for 3 ½ years.”

Bergazyn said he looked at a couple of other buildings as candidates for downtown condos, and is interested in doing more such projects.

The two buildings of the Tenth Street Lofts apartment project stand across 10th Street, and condos are planned for the Harger-Blish Building a block west at 112 11th St.

Bergazyn said he doesn’t consider those projects a factor in his decisions, but he is pleased by the proximity of restaurants and downtown employers.

“There’s a tremendous demand for housing downtown, just as there is in cities all over the country,” he said. Some of the projected condo units here will carry price tags in the million-dollar range, far above Bergazyn’s target. “The projects that are earmarked for higher-end buyers are based on a different perception of the market than I have,” he said.

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