Developer plans to turn former Des Moines school into hotel
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A developer is buying a former Des Moines junior high school and plans to transform it into a mixed-use entertainment venue with hotel rooms, office space, a restaurant and boutique bars.
We Can Build It owner Jeff Young told the Des Moines Register that he plans to complete the $2 million purchase of the former Franklin Junior High School on Monday.
Young envisions turning the cafeteria into a restaurant, retrofitting some rooms into bars and transforming two auditoriums into venues for concerts or plays. He anticipates investing about $6 million on interior renovations.
The two-story building was built in 1948. The district closed the school in 1979 due to declining enrollment. The First Federated Church then bought the property, but it decided to sell it about four years ago.
“The upkeep of that facility for us was huge. And just increasingly it was becoming more and more about trying to keep a building up,” said Pastor Mike Rose.
Young will need city approval to re-zone the property from its church classification.
He is modeling the mixed-use development concept after several historic renovations in the Pacific Northwest conducted by the McMenamins company. The McMenamin brothers have turned historic schools in Portland and Seattle into unique spaces with hotel rooms, microbreweries, wineries, restaurants and leased office space.
Young intends to copy this mixed-use vision to create “something that unites the people in the neighborhood.”
“It’s not been done in Des Moines before,” he said.
Young is meeting with representatives from nearby neighborhood associations to ask for input on his plan.
“I want the neighborhoods to take ownership of it,” Young said.
Ethan Standard, president of the Waveland Park Neighborhood Association, said the group is “excited to see significant new investment” in its neighborhood.
“We are very optimistic that this area will become a unique place within our city,” said Standard.
Information from: The Des Moines Register, http://www.desmoinesregister.com