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LAND SWAP: Polk County Approves Deal

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There will be plenty of unpacking in downtown Des Moines now that a three-way land swap has gone through.

Tuesday, Polk County supervisors gave final approval that will create a new county courts building and a new downtown Wellmark YMCA and open up the site of the current Riverfront YMCA for an undetermined new development.

Supervisors signed off on their portion of a three-way pact that trades $500,000 of Polk County`s cash and ownership of the shuttered Polk County Convention Complex to Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield.

In exchange, the county gets the title to a former office building at on Fifth Avenue. County supervisors plan to turn the new location, a former J.C. Penney, into a courts building.

As part of the deal, Wellmark has agreed to sell the Convention Complex plus an adjoining strip of land already owned by the insurance company to YMCA officials.

Polk County has also committed to spending $1 million to help the YMCA demolish its current building so the land can be resold.

“The county’s stepping up for another million dollars, which I applaud the board for, for demolition of the Y so this can all keep moving.  So this is great, it’s great for the community, it’s great for downtown, and I applaud the board for stepping up,” says supervisor John Mauro.

The demolition money will be repaid with proceeds from selling the Riverfront YMCA site.