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Proposed $33.5 million apartment project is for ‘active adults’


A proposed $33.5 million apartment project at 3801 Grand Ave. in Des Moines would include studio and one- to three-bedroom apartments. The project’s preliminary design was approved by the city’s Urban Design Review Board. Architectural rendering by Ask Studio

Preliminary designs for a proposed $33.5 million apartment project in the 3800 block of Grand Avenue received approval today from Des Moines’ Urban Design Review Board.

The 56-unit, four-story building would include three studio-sized apartments, 15 one-bedroom, 27 two-bedroom, and 11 three-bedroom units, Carrie Kruse, the city’s economic development coordinator, told board members.

The studio units would be leased to renters earning no more than 65% of the area median income, she said.

“We’re excited to see this nice mix of housing units,” Kruse said. A 2019 housing study showed a need for additional studio and one-bedroom apartments in and near the downtown area, she said. 

The project is being developed by 3801 Grand Associates LP and Newbury Management Co., managed by Frank Levy. Construction would begin yet this year and be completed by August 2022, according to a city document.   

The development “is not independent living; it’s not age-restricted,” Kruse said. “It’s being described more as active adult housing.”

Kruse said Newbury Management has agreed to a trial partnership with Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority to provide residents of its four properties located in or near downtown with free access to bus service. Residents of the new project would also be able to participate in the program, as will the company’s employees, she said.

Transportation costs are the second-largest expense category for average U.S. households, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. Housing is the largest expense. A study released in September showed that transportation expenses increased an average of 10% between 2018 and 2019, largely due to increased costs in insurance. 

The cost of transportation often limits housing choices for some Des Moines-area residents, Kruse said. “We’re really excited to see how this partnership works and to see if it can potentially be a model for other apartments in and around downtown.”

The 130,000-square-foot structure, called the James, would include about 69 underground parking stalls.

In October, the council approved a preliminary development agreement with the project’s developer that includes an economic development grant of up to $4.7 million that would be paid with tax increment financing.

Also today, the board approved:
• The final design and financial assistance package for a $22.7 million project involving the historic renovation of a one-story brick building at 213 13th St. and the construction of a mixed-use building with at least five stories across the street on the west side of 13th Street. 

The project would be completed over two phases and includes the historic renovation of a 15,000-square-foot building that was constructed in 1949. The building originally was known as the Iowa Ford Tractor Co. building at which tractors were repaired and stored. Later, H.B. Leiserowtiz Co., which sold and repaired photography equipment, was located in the building. 

The financial assistance package includes up to $5.2 million in the form of project-generated tax increment financing.

• The final designs and financial assistance package for an $8.6 million historic renovation project at 217 E. Second St. The building, with a distinctive sawtooth-style roof, most recently housed an auto detailing shop, a bar and nightclubs. An architecture firm and construction company will occupy the space when the renovation is complete. 

The financial assistance package includes providing up to $1.5 million in the form of project-generated tax increment financing.

Related article: New uses planned for East Village building that survived era of razing structures

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