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Developer Plans to Repurpose Old School Into Boutique Hotel

DES MOINES, Iowa – One developer wants to transform Franklin Junior High School into a boutique hotel and repurpose it for community use.

Owner of “We Can Build It” Jeff Young said he bought the property for $2 million back in March. He got the idea from some friends to repurpose the building and was inspired by similar projects on the west coast.

Young visited sites done by the McMenamin Company in Oregon and Washington.

“It was very obvious that every one of those buildings is in the heart of a normal neighborhood of nice modest homes and that it fit into that landscape wonderfully,” Young said.

Young finds inspiration from similar projects done by the company and wants to restore Franklin Junior High School.

“There will be some remodel, but we envision this building to look darn near like it looks right now. So when you come to stay in one of our hotel rooms it’s going to look like you’re staying in a classroom. The chalkboards will still be on the wall and the old-fashioned pencil sharpener will still be there too,” Young said.

Young said the second floor of the building will be hotel space, while the first floor is a mixture of community space, bars, restaurants, music venues and office space.

“We are talking about hotel rooms that could be as small as a hostel-style hotel room and as large as a 1,200 square foot classroom that would be your hotel room,” Young said.

Franklin Junior High School is a two story building, constructed in 1948. Des Moines Public Schools used the facility until 1979.

In 1980, the First Federated Church purchased the property and did renovations to the building, including adding a 4,000 foot sanctuary.

Young said he wants to transform the sanctuary into a music venue.

“This building has so much space and there are so many potential uses for it that we would really like to have the community support in going forward with what we want to do,” Young said.

Young said construction will begin once rezoning is approved. He plans to put an additional $6 million into the building.

Young is having an open house on Thursday from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m. to let people walk through the building and listen to his plans for how to recreate the space without destroying it.

The school is located at the corner of 4801 Franklin Avenue, Des Moines.

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