Mar 21, 2023 - News

Owner of historic home in Des Moines seeks demolition permit

The home is located at 696 18th Street. Photo: Jason Clayworth/Axios

The owner of an historic home in the Sherman Hill neighborhood damaged by fire last year is seeking approval to demolish it.

Why it matters: Homes within historic districts cannot generally be demolished without first going through a public advertising process to solicit a purchaser who agrees to preserve and rehabilitate the structure.

  • Owner Koshiyo RE LLC is requesting the Des Moines Historic Preservation Commission waive the advertising requirement and issue a certificate that would allow its demolition.
  • But the home can still be saved, Sherman Hill resident and home preservationist Rob McCammon tells Axios.

Catch up fast: The 2-½ story home was badly damaged in a November fire. There were no working smoke alarms and a cause has not been determined, but there is no reason to believe it was intentionally set, DSM fire captain Chris Clement tells Axios.

  • No people were injured.

Zoom in: The nearly 4,000-square-foot home was built around 1900 and later converted into four residences. It had much of its original woodwork, according to a 2022 real estate listing.

  • Former state Sen. Jack Hatch and his wife, Sonja, were longtime owners of the property. They sold it a year ago for $430,000 to Emma Hsieh, the owner of real estate company Koshiyo, according to Polk County Assessor records.

What they're saying: McCammon, who has restored multiple historic homes, says much of the home is still intact despite heavy damage. Neighborhood residents believe grants and tax credits are available to help save the home, he says.

  • Hsieh tells Axios that she's willing to sell the property, but also desires to quickly remedy the situation and is uncertain if restoration makes financial sense.

Of note: Foremost Insurance Group is withholding $80,500 of Koshiyo's final settlement until demolition or repairs are completed, according to a city document.

What's next: The preservation commission meeting starts at 5:30pm Wednesday.

Of note: New construction on the site would need to meet historic district guidelines.


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