Axios Des Moines

Newsletter branding image

Welcome to Tuesday!

🌞 Weather: Sunny with a high of 66°.

🎂 Happy birthday to our Axios Des Moines member Cecil Goettsch!

👩‍🎨 Situational awareness: A U.S. District Court judge yesterday issued a temporary restraining order to prevent the demolition of "Greenwood Pond: Double Site".

Today's Smart Brevity™ count is 732 words — a 3-minute read.

1 big thing: Downtown commercial values up 11%

Downtown Des Moines' taxable commercial value has continued to climb, even during the pandemic. Photo: Courtesy of Catch Des Moines

The total taxable value of downtown Des Moines' commercial properties jumped almost 11% in 2023 compared to the previous year, according to data provided to Axios by the Polk County Assessor.

Why it matters: Municipal budgets rely on the tax base.

By the numbers: The value of downtown DSM's commercial and industrial properties as well as apartments with three or more residences was almost $2.8 billion last year.

  • That's up from $2.5 billion the previous year and is nearly $486 million more than before the pandemic in 2019, per assessor data.

State of play: DSM is "kind of holding its own," Kevin Crowley, a manager with NAI Iowa Realty Commercial, tells Axios. That's partly attributable to office-to-residential conversion projects.

  • Decisions like the repurposing of a 372,000-square-foot former Nationwide building for municipal offices helps reduce vacancies, he adds.
  • Demand for downtown housing also remains strong, Brandon Brown, president of the Downtown DSM Neighborhood Association, tells Axios. Some buildings have waitlists, he says.

Reality check: Some downtown DSM commercial properties have high vacancy rates or have been on the market for months, Crowley says. A big factor is the high costs to remodel.

The big picture: Remote working trends have led to an "office real estate apocalypse," according to research updated in December from Arpit Gupta, a New York University business professor.

  • Drops in lease values, occupancy and market rents in the U.S. commercial office sector resulted in a nearly $665 billion "value destruction" between 2019 and 2022, Gupta estimates.
Data: Polk County Assessor; Note: Values include properties classified as commercial, industrial or apartments with three or more units; Chart: Axios Visuals

Share this story

2. Polk HQ gets greener

The current boiler in the Polk County Administration Building will remain in place as a backup heating source. Photo: Courtesy of the Polk County Assessor

The Polk County Administration Building is getting a new electric heating and cooling system.

Why it matters: The $750,000 project is the latest step towards achieving the county's environmental goals.

Catch up fast: County supervisors passed a resolution three years ago to reduce operational greenhouse gas emissions by 90% by 2040.

How it works: Room temperatures and specific areas can be controlled in the new system as opposed to a building-wide setting used in the current gas-powered operations.

  • That allows operators to adjust heating and cooling levels in places not being used.

State of play: The third floor installation is complete and the first and second floors will be operational before next winter.

Follow the money: Partial funding comes from a nearly $80,000 federal grant announced last week.

The intrigue: County officials won't have a cost savings estimate until the system is fully operational, Scott Ourth, Polk's director of general services, tells Axios.

  • The environment, rather than savings, is the primary reason for the installation, he says.

Share this story

3. The Ear: Just what I seeded

🥁 Today's Ear inspiration: "Just what I needed." Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

⛔️ At least 29 Iowa counties are now "redemption deserts," with nowhere to take empty cans or bottles to claim the nickel deposit. (Radio Iowa)

💵 The Mormon Church bought nearly 10 acres in Johnston for almost $1.4 million. The land is adjacent to other property it recently purchased. (Business Record)

🤝 For-profit companies are opening psychiatric facilities in Iowa as a business opportunity because of a shortage of inpatient beds run by governments or nonprofit health systems. (KFF)

🐨 Blank Park Zoo announced plans for its biggest expansion to date. (WHO-Radio)

⭐️ Today's headline maker: Katie Greenstein of Des Moines.

Sponsored job listings

New jobs to check out

💼 See who's hiring around the city.

  1. Government Relations Director at Zero to Three.
  2. Director, Corporate Communications at Motive.
  3. Director, Public Policy at DuckDuckGo.

Want more opportunities? Check out our Job Board.

Hiring? Use code FIRST50 for $50 off your first job post.

4. Win something tasty: $100 at Lucky Lotus

Lucky Lotus, in the 2700 block of Ingersoll Avenue, specializes in Southeast Asian cuisine. Photo: Jason Clayworth/Axios

Our weeklong giveaway continues. We want to celebrate our members, and gain 100+ more with a week of cool prizes and swag.

  • Becoming an Axios DSM member helps us secure more resources to cover the city we love. Plus, you'll score perks like invitations to exclusive events and members-only emails.

Today's item … a $100 gift card to Lucky Lotus in DSM.

  • Sign up today to be entered. All existing members are automatically entered.

The bottom line: Thank you for your support!

Sweepstakes rules apply

5. 🖌️ 1 illustration to go: Urbandale's flag finalists

Multiple designs selected as finalists in Urbandale's flag redesign project represent the city in map form. Illustration: Derek Zarn, courtesy of the city of Urbandale

The city of Urbandale recently released five design finalists for a new city flag.

Catch up fast: The council voted in October to revamp its current flag and asked citizens for ideas.

  • More than 430 designs were submitted.

State of play: City leaders are asking citizens to complete a survey about the finalists through April 22.

  • The new design will be unveiled in June.

🌒 Save those glasses: The next big total solar eclipse comes in just 20 years — in Montana and the Dakotas.

This newsletter was edited by Shane Savitsky and copy edited by Lucia Maher.