That man needs a clue. This Bookey-Hubbell deal can't come soon enough.
Wouldn't that be great if several things came about on Court Avenue at once? The average DSM resident would be shocked to see a hotel and several residential projects going up at once. I still think that the momentum will build once the new, nearby projects like SCI and riverfront get going.
Pointblank also said that the sale of the Rumley Building to convert to residential (the warehouse to the NW of SCI) had fallen through. It's only a matter of time before something serious is proposed for Rumley Building too.
Court Avenue entertainment, housing project is 'on' again
By DONNELLE ELLER
REGISTER STAFF WRITER
May 5, 2005
The $36 million Court Avenue housing and entertainment project has new life, with a state board deciding today that downtown Des Moines development project should have been awarded $2.7 million in tax credits.
The Iowa Finance Authority Board agreed with the director of the state agency, saying it erred in denying the credits to the developers of the Court Avenue project Ã¢â‚¬â€ Hubbell Realty and Harry Bookey.
The tax credits are expected to be awarded next month.
Rick Tollakson, president of Hubbell Realty, said the company plans to reconfigure the project to reduce the cost. At the time the tax credits were denied, the developers also lost out on an $800,000 housing loan.
Tollakson said the project may have fewer condos, although they will likely be larger than originally planned.
Hubbell Realty doesn't plan to seek additional city money, which totals $7 million since the project was approved in 2003. The company will outline its proposal to city staff next week.
Construction could begin by September, Tollakson said.
Developers again shrink plan for Court Avenue revitalization
If rejected by D.M. City Council, the group's effort could end
By JASON CLAYWORTH and DONNELLE ELLER
REGISTER STAFF WRITERS
An effort to revitalize downtown Des Moines' Court Avenue district has again been scaled back, which developers say is the only way to keep the plan alive without more taxpayer money.
The revised plan, which relies less on city subsidies, replaces 40 planned condominiums with 25 three-story brownstones in an area between Third and Fourth streets just south of Court Avenue.
At least two City Council members say the new plan is contrary to their goal of "high-density" housing coupled with commercial space.
The council will vote on the latest plan July 18.
"I won't support it as it is now," said City Councilwoman Christine Hensley, whose ward covers much of downtown. "There is a significant difference in the project than what was originally proposed."
Developer Jim Hubbell said the change is necessary to keep the project on solid financial ground. Rejection of the new plan could spell the end of his group's effort on Court Avenue except for renovation to the Spaghetti Works building, he said. "If they say no, we're done," Hubbell said.
Hensley, Councilman Chris Coleman and Mayor Frank Cownie are on a committee that oversees downtown proposals. Coleman objects to the new plan. Cownie said Monday that he shares the concerns but is not ready to denounce the project.
"My vote will be based upon what the original intent was and what it is today," Cownie said.
Hubbell and partner Harry Bookey in 2003 proposed a nearly $50 million plan that included roughly 200 apartments or condos along or adjacent to Court Avenue as well as a year-round farmers market, restaurants and nightclubs.
Developers have reconfigured the project several times because of delays in obtaining federal and state incentives. The developers say city officials have encouraged them to cut parts of the original plan to make room for possible developments, such as a hotel.
The new plan will cost $27 million. It has 129 - about 35 percent fewer - condos or townhouses and less than half the planned commercial space. Most of the entertainment venues are gone, along with the year-round market. Underground parking has also been abandoned.
Hubbell said this is the best proposal he can offer the city under its spending limits. The altered plan not only closes a nearly $1 million gap in finances but also reduces city subsidies by as much as $750,000, he noted.
The plan includes converting the upper three levels of the Spaghetti Works building at the corner of Third Street and Court Avenue into 51 apartments. That idea will likely go forward regardless of the council's decision next month, Hubbell said.
Incentives offered to developers to start the project now amount to $2.2 million. The city's total, including land costs, archaeology work, tax abatement and other longtime subsidies, will be about $7.5 million.
Rick Tollakson, president of Hubbell Realty, believes "there's a good chance we could get a big part of the entertainment" off the ground, once the residential piece of the project is established.
The city owns much of the land for the proposed redevelopment. A group of private investors known as the Court Avenue Housing Investment Fund in 2003 presented council members with four plans from various groups to redevelop Court Avenue. The investment group recommended a plan other than Bookey and Hubbell's.
The council, however, selected Hubbell and Bookey's proposal after an outcry of support for the entertainment component. City Manager Eric Anderson also recommended Hubbell and Bookey's plan.
The city's desire to breathe life into Court Avenue has lingered for more than a decade. One of the biggest setbacks came in January 2002, when investors encountered financial problems with a $34 million deal to add restaurants, retail shops and a 20-screen movie theater.
Coleman said the latest plan has changed too drastically, although he understands the reasons. He believes a high level of interest in downtown will encourage other developers to again come forward.
Thank you for writing and sharing your thoughts and concerns. I believe the Council feels very torn on the issue. They are all committed to make something happen on Court Avenue...but now are unsure if we are settling. There are gonna be some tough discussions in the next couple of weeks on Court Avenue and the direction we will take it together.
So much has changed regarding downtown development over the past year. We have so much momentum going for us...we don't want to slow that down. We also don't want to settle for something DSM residents will not be happy with over the long run. Once you build it...you can't go back.
Many on the council believe we have hit our stride in downtown DSM and we should weather the storm and see if there other proposals on the table. I am confident that outside of the Hubbell/Bookey plan there are many other developers who would now jump at the chance to develop, in my opinion, the most valuable piece of real estate in downtown Des Moines.
Again, thank you for writing and for being involved in the community and the direction we are taking it. It will only work if everyone is invested in the effort.
From: Josh Garrett
Sent: Tue 6/28/2005 1:26 PM
To: Kiernan, Michael J.
Subject: Hubbell Court Avenue Housing
I just wanted to tell you about the dissapointment I have with the scaled back proposal on the redevelopment of Court Avenue. I attended one of the public forums back in 1998 (when we voiced our opinions on the competing proposed Court Avenue Station projects). The latest reincarnation of the Court Avenue redevelopment is simply unacceptable. It will definately not bring the life we want to see on Court Avenue for our "young" people. From the Register's article, it appears its geared towards a family lifestyle, which is something that would be directly opposite of what the purpose of the redevelopment of this area was intended to be. Honestly, these townhomes should be jump starting Riverpoint West (I believe Hubbell is still involved in that project) into creation. When I spoke at that meeting, I was 20...and now I'm getting closer to 30. With everything that is happening in Downtown, this area could see something much more exciting. When the corner of Ingersoll and MLK is landing a $40 million dollar project full of housing, there is no reason Court Avenue couldn't see something more like it in density. The time for handouts to build housing Downtown is starting to be hogwash when many other developers are doing it without huge amounts of cash from the city. This proposal has been one blow after another, lets officially kill it and start over. Des Moines is not the same place it was 10, 5, or a even a year ago. Des Moines is a standout city (especially for its size) that is always aiming to think big. This project is not.
I run (along with Ryan Moffitt) a website that is devoted to development in the Des Moines area, absolutedsm.com. On our forums, you will find people who care about the direction the city is going. Most of us are excited with the progress that has occured in the city over the last few years. Click here and you can read their comments in the forums about this project:
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