How Toppling Goliath became anchor tenant in Drake project
Construction of mixed-use development expected to start by early 2024
A shared property line.
That’s the connection between the popular Decorah, Iowa-based Toppling Goliath Brewing Co. and Merge Urban Development Group, the Cedar Falls firm that is developing a mixed-use project near Drake University.
The family of Brent Dahlstrom, co-founder of Merge Urban Development, and the family of Clark Lewey, Toppling Goliath’s owner, have neighboring properties in northeast Iowa.
“We’ve known Clark Lewey for a while,” Dahlstrom said. “We’ve been working with them to find a spot that would make sense for their next brewery and taproom. We are excited that this project could work out for them.”
In 2021, Toppling Goliath Brewing Co. – the maker of Pseudo Sue pale ale and Dorothy’s New World Lager – asked Central Iowa developers for proposals for a taproom and brewery in the Des Moines area. The brewer’s development team talked with several developers and toured numerous sites, Lewey said.
“We were looking at very old buildings that we were going to remodel on our own,” Lewey said. “We looked at new construction with some potential partners.”
However, during the vetting process, Merge Urban Development “became the hands-down choice for us,” Lewey said. “We really fit well with them.”
Toppling Goliath’s new taproom is expected to open in the first half of 2025, Lewey said.
Before that happens, construction needs to begin on the project that was first announced in 2019. Construction of the five-story mixed-use development originally was expected to begin in spring 2020. The project, planned on the north half of a block bounded by 24th and 25th streets and University and Carpenter avenues, was delayed by the pandemic, rising costs for materials and difficulty in obtaining some products, Dahlstrom said.
“Covid threw a lot of things into turmoil,” Dahlstrom said. “We couldn’t get the costs settled for some things and have had some difficulty getting contractors locked in at numbers that made sense. … We’re excited to move forward now and feel like this is the right time.”
DCI Group Inc., located in Des Moines, is the project’s general contractor, Dahlstrom said. DCI is currently lining up subcontractors. Dahlstrom said he expects construction to begin later this year or in early 2024. He said it will likely take up to 18 months to complete.
In May 2022, Merge Urban acquired properties from Drake University at 1233 and 1237 25th St. and 1222 and 1236 24th St. The development company paid Drake $400,000 for the parcels, real estate records show.
The project will include 116 apartments, office space and street-level commercial space. Dahlstrom said Toppling Goliath will take up most of the street-level commercial space but that room remains for another tenant.
“We think the development is a great fit for the neighborhood,” Dahlstrom said. “Landing a brewery the caliber of Toppling Goliath for the neighborhood is just another step in the revitalization effort that has been going on there for some time now.”
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