May 4, 2023 - News

Preservationists call for demolition timeout in Highland Park

A photo of a building.

Longtime roof problems have caused widespread mold and nearly every beam needs to be replaced throughout this building at 3524 6th Ave., according to officials from Invest DSM. Photo courtesy of the city of DSM

Preservationists plan to ask the Des Moines City Council on Monday to delay approving a permit to demolish a nearly 110-year-old building in the Highland Park business district.

Why it matters: The building is a contributing structure of the historic district but is also on the city's public nuisance list.

  • Preservationists are at odds about whether it should be preserved or demolished.

Catch up fast: The now-vacant three-story building at the corner of Sixth and Euclid once held commercial space on the first floor with apartments on the upper floors.

  • Invest DSM — a group that often spearheads rehab projects — purchased the building in March after a previous developer determined its nearly $5 million restoration plan was not financially feasible.

State of play: Invest DSM now plans to demolish the structure and redevelop the site.

  • The $9M-$12M project would include commercial space and as many as 40 apartments.

Driving the news: Tanya Keith, an owner of Hat Trick Renovation, tells Axios she and other preservationists want to delay demolition at least 90 days to explore options to save the structure.

  • The building is one of the most recognizable in the district and contains design elements that are architecturally significant, like its brick facade and bay windows, DSM resident Jack Porter tells Axios.
A photo inside a building.
An inside look. Photo courtesy of the city of DSM

The other side: There's a more than $2 million financial gap in rehabbing the building, Christopher Civitate of Invest DSM tells Axios.

  • Even if more government subsidies were available, the rehab would create fewer than 15 affordable apartments, he says.

Of note: Keith believes the gap is far narrower than reported by Invest DSM but says she hasn't been allowed inside to inspect the building, which is partly why she's asking for a demolition delay.

Meanwhile, Invest DSM is opposed to delaying the demolition process because of liability issues associated with the dilapidated building.

  • Plus, waiting could derail the new project by causing it to miss grant deadlines, Civitate says.
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