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Firms picked For Court Ave.


The Court Avenue Housing Advisory Committee recommended that two Minnesota-based companies be picked to revitalize the Court Avenue area, the group announced this morning.

In choosing Minneapolis-based Lander/Sherman and St. Paul-based MetroPlains, the commission delivered a blow to local developers Harry Bookey and James Hubbell III, who were the first to propose a large-scale improvement project for the area and whose plans were the most extensive, and expensive, of the four the committee studied.

The Bookey-Hubbell proposal, which they presented last spring, spurred the committee to solicit alternative ideas. In its recommendation, which was announced Thursday morning, the commission said it didn’t pick the Bookey-Hubbell plan because the pair had asked for significantly more public money and that the project was too costly for the city to subsidize.

“The general quality and competency (of the proposals) are yet another sign of the interest qualified developers have in doing work in downtown Des Moines,” says Chris Greenfield, executive director of the Downtown Community Alliance. Greenfield says the plans were reviewed on finances, developer experience, the overall concept and site use, the time line and parking plans.

Sites that will be developed, according to details of the project that the committee recommended, are the Spaghetti Works building, land on the south side of Court Avenue between Third and Fifth streets and property on the north side of Vine Street between Southwest Second and Third streets.   Lander/Sherman is the developer of the Vine Street Lofts and Waterstreet Brownstones, which burned earlier this year.

The majority of the land is owned by the city, but the Neighborhood Improvement Corp. owns the parcel between Southwest Second and Third streets and the Court Avenue Housing Fund has an option on one piece of property located near Court Avenue on Third Street.

The recommended plan would build and renovate 393 housing units and offer some for lease and others for sale. Of those units, 12 percent will be affordable housing. Construction would be done in phases to allow the market to catch up, Greenfield said. The average subsidy for the housing units is $21,990.

The plan’s next hurdle will be obtaining approval from the Des Moines City Council, which will study it July 14.

If the council gives the go-ahead, a contract will be worked out and city boards and commissions will have an opportunity to weigh in on the plan before the contract is approved.

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