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Old fire station comes full circle under new ownership


The old Fire Station No. 1, at the corner of Ninth and Mulberry streets downtown. By Duane Tinkey

The future of the former Central Fire Station No. 1 will be a nod to its past, one of its new owners said Thursday.

Millang Properties LLC and Dingel Properties LLC paid $2.3 million for the property at 900 Mulberry St., in Des Moines. The nonprofit Des Moines Social Club purchased the building in 2012 from the city, transforming it into an arts and cultural center. The club made nearly $7 million in improvements to the property, exceeding the group’s fundraising total, putting constant pressure on its operating funds, city documents state.

A group was put in place in 2019 to reimagine the property, and in 2021 the decision was made to sell the campus, with the proceeds being used to create an endowment at the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines to support arts and culture. A buyer from Kansas City, Mo., offered to purchase the building, but later backed out of the deal.

Todd Millang, owner of Millang Properties, and Tyler Dingel, owner of Dingel Properties, now plan to revitalize the old fire station and provide space for community events, office space and a coffee shop.

One of the key players will be Des Moines Firefighters Union Local 4, Millang said.

He said a friend of his who is a firefighter reached out because the union had been looking for a new home. That conversation evolved and union officials took a look at the building and everything came together for the union to lease space in the property.

“It fell together very nicely where we have a deal struck with the union and they’ve been in the property since the day after we closed two weeks ago doing some demo work. And they’re going to put some efforts into making this a nice event space, using the main level for events and the patio for events, and then they’ll use the lower level as their union hall,” Millang said.

Events could range from corporate events and retreats to weddings and retirement parties, he said.

Millang said it brings the building “full circle, considering this was firehouse No. 1 and now we have our firefighters back in the improved property, so it’s not only a home for them and their union members, but it’s a way for them to pay for it through renting the property out for different events.”

The antenna in the courtyard will be coming down in the next couple of weeks, and the stage that was built there will be ripped out, he said. The courtyard will also be resurfaced.

The restaurant Malo, which Millang is a partner in with Paul Rottenberg and George Formaro, will remain in the north part of the building. There are a couple of potential tenants looking at the remainder of space on the second level for offices, Millang said.

He said he and Dingel are excited to bring life back to the building.

“When we purchased it we were really excited about what the property could be, what an opportunity it could be,” Millang said.

He said he’s also excited about the two possible tenants coming in on the second floor.

“One of them is super excited about the historical significance of the property, and they’re going to come in and do some pretty neat improvements to the upper level to sort of give it its best opportunity to shine as a historical property,” Millang said.

He said it was too early to identify who those tenants might be.

The final spot is the space on the first level that used to house a gallery and comic book store. Millang said he will look to bring in a coffee and pastry shop that would complement Malo.

Millang and Dingel first approached the Des Moines Social Club Transition Board when it came up for sale, but the Kansas City group presented an offer before he and Dingel could execute an agreement with the transition board.

When the Kansas City group backed out, the transition board re-approached Millang and Dingel.

Millang said it’s important to redevelop the property and provide some continuity to the neighborhood.

“We’re going to be down there and we’ll just have to be a little more diligent, a little more responsible with our decisions to make sure it’s in the best interest of the property and the neighborhood,” Millang said.

He anticipates the improvement work being done by later this year.

“From what I’ve seen so far from the firefighters, I think they’re going to have that space ready in the next couple of months,” he said. “And the office user, if we get something moving forward here fairly soon, I think they would look at trying to occupy that space by the end of the year.”

The addition of a coffee shop would be the last element of the project, Millang said.

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