New Plan In the Works to Build Commercial Property on River Front YMCA Site

DES MOINES, Iowa --  The City of Des Moines waited two years for the perfect project to come along for the former Riverfront YMCA project.  Instead the exact opposite came along.  Now they hope to have a plan to get back on the right track.

Earlier this summer the federal government announced they wanted to build $132 million courthouse.   “The General Services Administration wants to put the courthouse on the YMCA site for the same reason we want to put private development on the land. It’s a great site, it’s probably the best site in the state,” said Matt Anderson, Assistant City Manager for the City of Des Moines.

Thursday, the city announced a plan to block the GSA’s attempt to build there.  The city would give Hubbell Realty, owners of the property, until next May to come up with a plan for the property.  If they don't have a plan by then the city will buy the property.

The city wants to continue with improving the river walk area of downtown.  The people who live there agree that’s the right plan.  In July, the GSA held a public input meeting and that was the overwhelming response.  “You can see people on the street evening and weekends. That’s the first time that has happened in 30-40 years, and I don’t want something that isn’t going to contribute to that,” said downtown resident Isobel Osius.

The next step in the process is to choose another site for the federal courthouse.  “Let’s finalize a site that going to benefit the court system, going to benefit the city of Des Moines and the citizens of all the state of Iowa for generations to come,” said Mayor Frank Cownie.  The federal government has two other sites it is considering.  They could still choose to simply upgrade their current courthouse.

No matter which of those options the federal government chooses, Des Moines leaders are happy to get back their prime piece of taxable property.  “There is a higher and better use for that site to generate some tax revenue.  We think it’s probably a $50-75 million of development that could happen and go back on the tax rolls,” says Anderson.