Oct 13, 2022 - News

Des Moines skyscraper plan to make a comeback

An illustration of a building.

Rendering: Neumann Monson Architects, courtesy of Blackbird Investments/St. Joseph's Group

A group of investors is trying to resurrect a 33-story downtown Des Moines residential tower proposal with tentative plans that could launch construction as early as May.

  • St. Joseph's Group, a DSM-based development team, has secured around $100 million in bonds, Joe Teeling, the team's president, told Axios this week.

Why it matters: 515 Walnut is an important link in downtown redevelopment that could transform the city's skyline.

  • The proposal led to the 2018 closure and still pending demolition of Des Moines' Kaleidoscope at the Hub — a once-bustling restaurant and retail center near 5th and Walnut streets.

Catch up fast: The project began in 2016 as a smaller plan on the nearby and former Younkers site.

  • A series of financial and development decisions by Des Moines-based Blackbird Investments transitioned the project to its current site and iteration.

State of play: Blackbird is transitioning the project to St. Joseph's Group, said Teeling, who is also president of Blackbird Investments, the owner of the property.

  • A nonprofit affordable housing group is being formed that would ultimately own and manage the property.

Driving the news: Developers would like Des Moines, Polk County and state government officials to help them secure portions of another $35 million for the project — possibly using some federal pandemic relief funds allocated for housing.

  • Tentative agreements could go before the city council as early as next month, Teeling said.

Reality check: Teeling's timeline for council action might be a bit optimistic.

  • The city is discussing preliminary terms with the group but it is premature to commit to a timeline, deputy city manager Matt Anderson told Axios Wednesday.

Of note: A previous development plan will generally be followed although amenities like a pool on the top floor are still under review, Teeling said.

  • The previous plan included 336 mixed-income units and 25,000 square feet of retail or commercial space.
A photo of a vacant mall.
Des Moines’ Kaleidoscope at the Hub remains connected with the city's skywalk but closed for business. Photo: Jason Clayworth/Axios

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to change the name of the project to 515 Walnut from The Fifth. Two lines regarding the 515's connection with a parking garage project have also been removed.

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