Jan 20, 2023 - News

Polk County wants to redevelop courthouse adjacent parking lots

A photo of a parking lot.

Polk County wants to buy this parking lot in the 500 block of Vine Street to make way for future development. It was also the answer to yesterday's "Where's Jason" question, won by Axios DSM reader Mike Jones of Windsor Heights. Photo: Jason Clayworth/Axios

Polk County is trying to purchase two surface parking lots south of the courthouse, county administrator John Norris tells Axios.

Why it matters: It's prime downtown real estate that's adjacent to another surface parking lot the county already owns.

  • The contiguous parcels could make redevelopment more appealing.

State of play: The lots are owned by Wells Fargo Properties, including one parcel that's irregularly shaped due to the curve of Sixth Avenue.

  • There are currently 56-parking spots on the properties, which are for sale for $625,000.

What's happening: Negotiations are underway with Des Moines officials for county employees who currently use the surface lots to instead use city-owned garage parking.

  • If both the sale and garage talks are successful, it would open opportunities "to reimagine" the surface lot space, Norris wrote in a memo to supervisors in October.

Of note: The lots were previously the location of Union Station, a train depot that was demolished decades ago.

  • The county is currently conducting soil testing on the grounds prior to purchasing the Wells Fargo properties because the site potentially stored and used hazardous materials or petroleum prior to regulatory oversight, Norris said.

What's next: The deals could be finalized in the coming weeks.

  • It's premature to speculate on redevelopment or timelines, which will involve the city of DSM, Sarah Boese, deputy county administrator told Axios Thursday.
A photo of the Polk Couty courthouse.
A train depot was previously located just south of the courthouse in the spot that includes surface parking lots that Polk County is trying to buy for redevelopment. Photo courtesy of Polk County

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