City Closes Prominent Architect’s Dilapidated Building

DES MOINES, Iowa – About a dozen people are being thrown out of their dangerous apartment building, while their landlord lives a lavish life.

After several warnings to clean up the apartment building at 718 Fifteenth Street, the City of Des Moines is closing it down. It’s just too dangerous. Lights and smoke alarms in hallways don’t work, ceilings leak, and tenants say they deal with an infestation of insects and vermin.

The city has repeatedly warned the owner, prominent local architect and business owner Kirk Blunck to clean the place up. Now, the city is giving tenants 30-days to get out. Tenant Doug Jones is disabled. He doesn’t know where he’s going to go, “It`s not fair and it`s tricky, I don`t work or anything, I don`t have the ability to double my hours to get rent deposit.”

Jones says Blunck was always good about cashing his rent check, but that’s about all Blunck would do around the apartment. According to city records, Blunck was first warned to fix up the property in June of 2011. Four months later, he blew off a housing board of appeals hearing. After several more warnings, a judge last week ordered tenants to move out.

According to Blunck’s website, his architecture firm is responsible for refurbishing more than 20-buildings in the historic east village, including several buildings that he owns. His website also talks about doing renovations at the Des Moines Art Center, Hoyt Sherman Place, and the Wells Fargo Financial headquarters.

So we went to Blunck’s $600,000, five-thousand square foot home near Waveland Golf Course. We walked past the two Porsches, the BMW, the Volvo SUV and the classic Mercedes in the driveway to ask Blunck why he hasn’t paid for repairs or electricity in his apartment building. We could see him inside, but he never answered the door.

Tenants say he’s a slumlord. ‘I`m angry, really angry,” Jones says. “It`s really frustrating, I don`t know how legally or morally how you can do these things, take people`s money and just leave them in horrible conditions.”

8 comments

  • Holly Johnson

    I had moved back to Iowa a year ago. Rented a place at westpointe in urbandale. The place was full of mold that made me very sick. I found out just how bad the laws are in Iowa. Even seemed like it was no big deal to the city where I filed a complaint. He went on to say that mold is natural etc……. Not to this extreme!!! On top of that I even had to front $50.00 to file the complaint. Rediculous. Until people stand up and demand law changes to protect renters, this will always be an ongoing problem. What I discovered is that Iowa isn’t really full of nice people who care about others. Rather, the thought process is, well, they are just renters. Low life’s, right? I could afford to move and stood up for myself. There were many others stuck in the same situation that were not as fortunate as myself. I felt terrible about this. I know how sick I was. It sucked!!!! If you call westpointe and ask if anyone has ever had a mold issue there, their response is, “not that they are aware of.” No matter that there is a huge picture in the Des Moines register showing just how bad my apt was. This is not against the law and that is sad!!!! I’m back in Atlanta now and will never move back to Iowa again.

  • Local

    Hey, someone finally noticed! I guess his east village properties having collapsing sidewalks and sewage in the basement weren’t enough to take notice. I’m surprised he owns anything residential now, considering how requirements are more noticeable when people live there.

  • Jodi

    This story has left me completely speechless. Im not understanding why people who are in certain money brackets in Des Moines, Iowa are getting away with ANYTHING they feel like doing or doing to people, but when the lower money bracket population would either be charged as a criminal or huge fine against them? And then the DOT wants to step in and crush the rest of any possible way of getting ahead!!! FED UP with the double standards in DSM.

  • Mike Cee

    It is clear that this guy is nothing but a sleezeball. An arrogant, wealthy sleezeball, but a sleezeball none the less.

  • The Phantom

    Here is an idea. If there is a developer or property owner with buildings like this they cannot bid for county or state projects and cannot particapate in any development where taxpayer monies are used. That may impact and grab the attention of a architect firm.

    • do ur job

      Until then its simple, if our elected officials continue to award him business-we vote them out. And if there are businesses using his services, we no longer patron them. This is one person that society should shun and show zero tolerance.

  • Followthemoney

    I like that the news insinuates that the justice would be liquidating his personal assets and distributing them among the people who lived in his building. Way to throw some gasoline on class warfare, there. There were other people involved here. Someone with the government inspected and approved this place as Section 8 housing. There was someone who looked the other way when these complaints were lodged. Who were THOSE people? That’s who to question here, not Blunck, who looks like a goof and is clearly unprepared for a PR crisis. People who need Section 8 housing have a choice between this or the homeless shelter, so they’ll TAKE this, even if it’s awful, because the shelter is worse. I read recently that rental occupancy in the Des Moines area is above 95%. Landlords of all types have ZERO incentive to make any improvements at any rental price because of scarcity. Another thing to keep in mind is that businesses often do the bare minimum to keep afloat, they have no duty of care, sometimes letting something go is actually a strategy. In some cities, you’re not allowed to tear a building down (especially if it has subsidized housing in it) until it falls down. Was THAT in play here? I’m not defending Blunck or his actions. But I do see where others are also at fault and I do see an unpopular business decision-by-indecision happening here. WHO would do well to follow the money. And take a bigger look around, this isn’t the only building that looks like this in Des Moines. There’s one at approximately Hickman and 7th. There’s all sorts of buildings and homes from Birdland to Drake that look just like this one. Look into those as well!
    Just now · Like

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