Des Moines developer plans mid-rise apartment building in East Village
A company with several major developments in Des Moines hopes to begin construction this spring on one of the tallest buildings in the East Village.
American Heart Group proposed a seven-story, 75-foot-tall mixed-use commercial and apartment building at the northeast corner of East Sixth and East Walnut Streets.
The $20 million, 126,560 square foot structure known as Lab would have retail tenants on the first floor. The upper floors would include 110 studio, one and two bedroom apartments.
The company bought the 0.82 acre property in 2017 as the site of a multi-family development that would take advantage of a “somewhat underutilized” parking lot across the street, President and CEO Mike Whalen noted. The height of the structure will be the maximum allowed by the East Village zoning code to provide a view of the Iowa State Capitol, he said.
“We fantasized about the great views you’d get on those upper floors — both downtown and the Capitol,” Whalen said. “We’re just real fans of the whole East Village and the continuous demand from people who want to live there because it’s cool. It’s just a cool place.”
A developer of restaurants, apartments and hotels in the Midwest, Heart of America Group owns five office buildings in the East Village and built the AC Hotel at 401 E. Grand Ave., where it also owns and operates the restaurant on the top floor. The Republic on Grand. The lab would be his first multi-family development in downtown Des Moines.
It will have an average of 19 units on each of its residential floors. The apartments will have their own outdoor space, in-unit washer and dryer, and 9 foot high ceilings. The seventh floor will house fewer and larger premium units.
“They have multiple balconies. They have high-end finishes. Just something you don’t typically see for a rental,” Heart of America Group Enterprise Architect Dan Oliver told the board on Tuesday. city urban design review.
The building will also have a second-floor pool visible from Walnut Street, complete with grilling stations, cabanas, a hot tub and fire pits. Other building amenities include a community room with a full kitchen and lounge seating, a dog park, and a fitness center.
On the ground floor, Heart of America provides 4,000 square feet of commercial space. Whalen said the company hasn’t signed any tenants yet, but a fitness company and a food and beverage operator have expressed interest.
“We want it to be something that people who live in The Lab would say, ‘Hey, that’s a good thing to have there,'” he said.
Construction is expected to start this spring. Oliver said a one-story building on the site, built as an asbestos factory and later used for storage, will be demolished.
The Lab should be open in the spring or summer of 2023.
Last month, the Des Moines City Council voted to approve draft terms of a development agreement with Heart of America Group that includes 20 years of tax increment funding totaling $2.3 million. The financial incentive won’t kick in until year nine, when a 10-year property tax abatement, available for multi-family developments in Downtown and the East Village, begins to phase out, said Carrie Kruse, economic development administrator for Des Moines.
In exchange, Heart of America Group agreed to reserve 10% of the units for tenants earning 80% or less of the area’s median income during the incentive period.
Why can’t the Lab be bigger?
Efforts to preserve the views of the Capitol began when the Embassy Suites built its eight-story hotel at 101 E. Locust St. next to the Des Moines River in 1990.
Approved in 1997, the city’s Capitol Gateway East Urban Design Plan limits residential buildings in the East Village to 75 feet tall — up to seven stories, depending on ceiling height — and commercial buildings to 55 feet. The master plan was created a year after the state legislature passed a bill requiring that “the most panoramic views of the State Capitol be unobstructed by the erection of structures including, but not limited to buildings, towers and monuments”.
A new Des Moines zoning code, passed in 2019, removed the 55-foot guideline, with the understanding that any building requests above the 75-foot limit would require approval from city planners and citizens’ councils .
Since the Capitol Gateway East design plan went into effect, developers of at least six projects have sought approval for taller buildings, Ryan Moffatt, city economic development coordinator, told the Des Moines Register in 2020. Only the Iowa Department of Public Safety, which in 2005 added two floors to its building at 215 E. Seventh St., received an exception.
Other than this building and the hotel, the only buildings that exceed the 75-foot limit are the Lyon Apartments, 600 E. Fifth St., and the Teachout Building, 500 E. Locust St. Like the Embassy Suites, both predate to the view of the Capitol. protection bill.
As it prepares for the development of the new Market District, just south of the East Village, the city is considering zoning that would allow taller buildings while preserving views of the Capitol.