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29-Story Tower May Rise from Younkers’ Ashes

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- Renderings released Wednesday show a new high-rise development that will be built at the former Younkers building in downtown Des Moines.

Blackbird Investments is proposing a mixed-use development of 7,000 square feet featuring commercial space facing Walnut Street, a hotel, and more than 200 housing units on the upper floors. The housing units will include one and two bedrooms for rent and purchase, including two floors of penthouse units at the top.

Former Younkers building May 25, 2016.

Former Younkers building May 25, 2016.

The renderings were produced by Neumann Monson Architects, located in Des Moines. The building proposed by Blackbird Investments would be made of concrete and steel with three-fourths of the exterior covered in glass.

A massive fire destroyed the historic Younkers building in March 2014. The surviving structure, known as the Wilkins building, housed the historic Younkers Tea Room.

Blackbird Investments purchased the Wilkins building and the remaining Younkers site from Alexander Company in July 2015. The Wilkins building will have 60 apartments and 11,500 square feet of first-floor retail.

The Greater Des Moines Partnership says this is all great news for the city and bringing Walnut Street back to life.

“We’re reaching trying to stretch the limits of the marketplace. I think that’s going to be healthy for the entire market and the entire region,” said Tim Leach, senior vice president at the Greater Des Moines Partnership.

Leach said Walnut Street will be part of the walkability plan, serving as the connector between Western Gateway Park, to the East Village and to Court Avenue.

“Walnut Street has the opportunity to be a good retail magnet … to grow organically, similarly to the East Village, but Walnut Street makes the connection as it goes the length of downtown,” Leach said.

Blackbird Investments is in the process of interviewing contractors for the massive project.