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Plans to Redevelop Armory Building on Hold Indefinitely

DES MOINES, Iowa  --  Plans to redevelop the Argonne Armory Building in downtown Des Moines have hit a snag and are on hold indefinitely.

Real estate often comes down to location and money.  The Armory is prime riverfront location, but financially the city hit a pot hole. The city currently houses their community development, HR, and IT departments in the Armory, but a feasibility study for moving staff out revealed an issue with IT.

“The results of that study came back telling us that moving that portion of the offices out of the Armory was both more time-consuming and expensive than we had initially understood,” said Erin Olson-Douglas, the city’s economic development director.

Because of that, plans to redevelop the Armory are at a standstill. The property had three suitors: Blackbird Investments, Hubbell Realty, and Christensen Development.  The latter wanted to turn the space into a music venue in collaboration with music giant Live Nation.  Those in the local music scene were against that plan, saying a corporate entity coming to town would hurt smaller clubs like Wooly’s.

“They have advantages over people. They will bring shows and what have you, but they're not as interested in the local community, I think, as the people that are here,” said Amedeo Rossi.

Rossi owns the club Vaudeville Mews and collaborates with the owner of Wooly’s.  He says plans for developing the Armory included a 2,000-person hall and a smaller 800-person hall, which would directly compete with Wooly’s. Jake Christensen has said all of his firm's conversations with Live Nation have been about collaborating with those in local music.  Regardless, with plans now on hold, the Armory will continue operating as is; but the city says it has every intention to redevelop the space in the future.

“It was exciting to see there was that interest in our community and that there is potential for transforming that space at some point into another more active use,” said Olson-Douglas.

Christensen said in a statement on Friday he was proud of his team's proposal and is “disappointed the process went this direction."