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Iowa architectural group names community award winners


The interior of Principal Financial Group’s corporate headquarters in downtown Des Moines. Photo courtesy Wayne Johnson, Main Street Studios


Principal Financial Group, headquartered in Des Moines, and developer Marc Moen of Iowa City have received the Iowa Architectural Foundation 2021 Community Enhancement Through Architecture & Design Awards.

The awards program recognizes individuals, organizations, agencies or communities, outside the architectural profession, who have demonstrated consistent and effective leadership, vision, and support for architecture, or have continually championed the cause of architecture in ways that have contributed to the betterment of Iowa communities.

Principal Financial Group began building its campus in downtown Des Moines in 1939. Then known as Banker’s Life Co., the company built what was recognized nationally at the time as one of the most modern buildings in the country.

Its headquarters renovation is the cornerstone of Principal’s recently completed $400 million campus renovation, according to the foundation.

The company has also contributed to other projects in downtown Des Moines along with its campus. Among the projects is the Principal Riverwalk, a joint venture between the city of Des Moines and the Principal Financial Group to develop a 1.5-mile waterfront pedestrian loop and multipurpose trail spanning the Des Moines River between the city’s downtown and state Capitol districts.

According to the jury: “Principal invested so much in downtown Des Moines when almost no one else was investing. It could be argued that they have had a more sustained positive impact on the city of Des Moines and downtown than any other company or any combination of companies. They’ve spoken publicly about how they want to make the community greater, while at the same time they want to have fabulous employees that are drawn to live in Des Moines. The ideal situation is when a company can accomplish both doing good and making money. They have certainly done that.”

Over the past 35 years, developer Marc Moen of Moen Group in Iowa City has worked to transform Iowa City from a college town into a sophisticated urban city, according to the foundation.

Moen’s work in architecture began in 1985, when he saved the “first brick house in Iowa City” from being razed. He restored the building, beginning his efforts to provide quality housing by rehabilitating poorly maintained historic properties. Three years later he bought and renovated a major mixed-use historic building in the central business district.

Other historic building rehabilitations include the Starbucks building, Packing and Provisions, and Wells Fargo. He built his first new building in 1999, called Whiteway 2000. The building included ground-floor retail, apartment housing and for-sale condominiums. He also has built Vogel House, Plaza Towers, Park @ 201 and the Chauncey.

According to the jury: “This is a nice balance between new and existing work, which was notable; the idea of not just tearing down Iowa City but actually restoring important buildings and then being able to enhance the value of the community by putting money up for new developments. There’s a lot of risk that goes on in buying his buildings and in restoring them. The architecture is very strong. It’s a compelling case.”



Plaza Towers in Iowa City was developed by Marc Moen. The development includes underground parking, a boutique hotel, housing, office space, a restaurant and an urban grocery store. Photo courtesy of Farshid Assassi, Assassi Productions

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