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Groundbreaking launches construction of multimillion-dollar Market District development


Architectural rendering provided by JSC Properties

The redevelopment of an area just east of the Des Moines River from industrial grounds to streetscapes began Thursday with a groundbreaking ceremony for the Market District, a multimillion-dollar plan to turn roughly 39 acres into an extensive urban-meets-earth downtown neighborhood.

The groundbreaking took place at the corner of Southeast Third Street and East Market Street, marking redevelopment of formerly industrial land between the Des Moines River, east Sixth Street, Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway and the railroad tracks. Market Street is intended to become a “signature street” for the district highlighted by unique streetscape and lighting design. The Market District will eventually include an indoor-outdoor event venue, a hotel, office space, apartments, condominiums and parking.

The project is led by District Developer LLC, a group that includes JSC Properties, MidAmerican Energy Co., Knapp Properties Inc. and other area developers. The Market District’s site includes six blocks formerly owned by the city of Des Moines for public works facilities, a 2-acre site purchased by JSC Properties from a relocated scrap processor and riverfront property owned by MidAmerican Energy.

“I’m very excited about the possibilities that exist when the Market District becomes a connector to the river, and its amenities to residents and visitors alike,” said Kathryn Kunert, vice president of economic connections and integration for MidAmerican Energy.

Development on the Market District’s street infrastructure is expected to be completed by the end of 2024, said Paul Hayes, president of JSC Properties. The total area is estimated to take up to 10 years to complete, and to be valued at a minimum of $245 million.

“We’re getting more attention from developers that want to get into the Des Moines market for the first time than from those that are already here. They’ve been looking for an opportunity in this area, and they feel that this is the opportunity,” Hayes said.

The area has been a master planning priority for the city of Des Moines twice, in 2010 and 2018, said Matt Anderson, deputy city manager. With infrastructure development under way, the city’s public works yards will be relocated east of Southeast 14th Street at the Municipal Service Center 2, which is now under construction.

“This area went on the radar when MLK [Parkway] came through. When you’re investing tens of millions of dollars in a road network, you don’t have your public workshops at the front door,” Anderson told the Business Record.

Developing the location is a “unique strength” for Des Moines, James Cownie, owner of JSC Properties, told the crowd on Thursday. Approximately 70,000 people work downtown, and between 10,000 and 12,000 apartments have been added to the area.

“This time last year, I don’t think anyone really knew what the commercial real estate market was going to look like. I would guess that there were times a year ago when all of us were wondering if this would actually happen,” Anderson said. “Des Moines is resilient. In every challenging time that happens both in Iowa and nationally, Des Moines always comes out stronger, and you’re going to see that coming out of the pandemic.”

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