Tale of Two Different Projects Planned for Same Downtown Site

DES MOINES, Iowa -- Hubbell Realty, the company that owns the land at the former site of the downtown Des Moines Riverfront YMCA, thinks the construction of a new federal courthouse on that property is bad for economic development downtown.

“I think as a community member that the condo project, along with the restaurant, coffee shop, and cocktail lounge, offer the best vibrancy for our downtown, rather than a large, federal courthouse building," said  Rick Tollakson, President and CEO of Hubbell Realty Company. "So, that’s just my opinion. I think our option’s the best, they want this as a preferred site, I’m not even sure I know what that means."

Hubbell plans to build a $75 million, 115 unit condominium project on the site. But the federal government has once again said that it wants and intends to build a new courthouse at that site.

The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) has chosen the prime piece of real estate at 101 Locust Street as the preferred site for the construction of a $137 million federal courthouse. The GSA says it selected the site based on extensive analysis. For a thorough overview of that analysis, the final environmental assessment can be reviewed on the Des Moines Courthouse website.

"So, this will be the second time they've said we have a preferred site," said Tollakson. "We`ve not seen any of their concepts, so I really can't talk about them. I don`t know that anybody has seen any concrete drawings to know what they have planned. So, we have no idea. So, I was a little surprised to see the notice."

In its announcement today, the GSA said it has worked closely with city officials to address concerns raised during the public comment period that began in July of 2017.

City officials say they've made their concerns known. "We have had the opportunity to work with GSA over the course of the last several months, in order to identify opportunities for open space," said Erin Olson-Douglas, Economic Development Coordinator for the City of Des Moines. "To understand the security requirements a little bit better and understand our concerns over not creating a fortress on this site, but rather incorporating it into the fabric of the pedestrian experience downtown."