Feb 3, 2022 - News

Ancient discovery in Des Moines punts $68M DART facility plan

A photo of artifacts discovered in Des Moines in 2010.

DART's proposed bus maintenance facility site is believed to be part of an ancient village where these spear points were discovered in 2010. Photos courtesy of the Office of the State Archaeologist

A recent archeological discovery in Des Moines near DART's planned $68 million maintenance facility has resulted in a federal recommendation that the agency find a new location, DART spokesperson Erin Hockman told Axios.

The intrigue: The would-be new location is adjacent to a site where a 7,000-year-old village was discovered in 2010.

  • The village's boundaries have not been determined but there's a good possibility that it extends into areas of the proposed bus site, archeologist Branden Scott told Axios.

Why it matters: The transit agency is facing a ticking clock to use millions of dollars in grants on a new facility and construction was slated to start this year.

  • Finding a space that is big enough for the operation yet still located in the downtown area β€” a necessity for efficiency β€” is tricky, Hockman told Axios yesterday.

Catch up fast: DART's current 11-acre campus at 1100 Dart Way has been damaged by flooding multiple times. Meanwhile, its roughly 50-year-old main facilities building needs an estimated $35 million in updates.

  • FTA officials had originally told DART to consider relocating because site deficiencies at its current spot make it ineligible for future grants.
  • The transit agency last year proposed building the new bus facility on city-owned property at 2501 Maury St., and demolishing the former Chesterfield School building nearby.

What they're saying: Scott declined to discuss his specific findings, which he described as preliminary.

  • The Des Moines City Council will consider more archeological investigations in the coming weeks and evaluate what development options are available, said city spokesperson Al Setka.
  • Plans to demolish the former Chesterfield School building on the site are also pending further council review, Setka said.

What's next: The bus maintenance facility project will be delayed at least a year as city and transit officials scout for a new site.

  • DART may seek an extension for a $17 million federal grant that has some spending deadlines in September 2023, Hockman said.
A drawing of a proposed bus maintenance facility in Des Moines.
DART is now searching for a new spot to build a new operations and maintenance facility. Drawing courtesy of Substance Architecture
A photo of the former Chesterfield School in Des Moines.
The former Chesterfield School building β€” which is eligible to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places β€” was slated for demolition to make room for the DART facility. Its future is now uncertain. Photo: Jason Clayworth/Axios
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