It’s been billed as downtown’s busiest year ever.
“We have $800 million worth of development that’s either under construction or in the works,” said Glenn Lyons, the president and CEO of the Downtown Community Alliance.
The Younkers building wasn’t just one of those developments, it was a crucial piece of another – the Walnut Street Renovation project.
“We started Walnut kind of like you would start a mall with anchors,” said Des Moines assistant city manager, Matt Anderson. “So we had anchor space at the Younkers building, and we had anchor space at the Kaleidoscope. We lost one of our anchors.”
So now what? Does the giant block of ash and rubble throw a wrench in the gears of 2014? The answer is a resounding “no.”
“If this were our only project and this were the only thing happening on Walnut Street, we would be in worse shape,” Lyons said. “But everywhere you look there’s a development happening, now.”
The courthouse, the YMCA, Nollen Plaza, the Des Moines Social Club, the Principal campus, East Village hotels and downtown apartments and condos will all continue on as planned. Construction traffic and utilities to those sites should not be affected by the fire cleanup, either. Even the Walnut project is still alive.
“It doesn’t kill the project by any means,” Anderson said, “it just changes the timing. And maybe we’ll just go focus down on the east end toward the Kaleidoscope, now, and come back and hit that western block later.”
At this point, the only loss seems to be the most obvious one: the Younkers Building. Perhaps what would have been the historic crown jewel in this downtown revival.