East Village office will be 1st in Iowa to use eco-friendly mass timber building material
Before you head to the East Village's newest retail shop, get a peek inside the new West Elm store in Des Moines.
A group of local developers is bringing the first speculative office and retail building in downtown Des Moines in more than a decade.
The mixed-used building will also be the first in Iowa to use an eco-friendly building material called mass timber.
The four-story, 64,000-square-foot building will be located at 111 E. Grand Ave. in the East Village, just north of the new City Hall parking garage on the same piece of land.
"We think it's the kind of building that will help employers attract employees and retain employees," said Paul Hayes, president of the local real estate agency JSC Properties. "They want a nice space to work in."
The building will be the first speculative construction project — meaning it's not built for a particular tenant or company — in downtown since 2008 when the Davis Brown Tower opened. The 13-story tower, at 10th and Walnut streets, houses Panera and Josephs Jewelers on the ground floor and the Davis Brown Law Firm's headquarters above.
Demand for commercial and office space in the East Village remains steady as the neighborhood expands, said Erin Olson-Douglas, Des Moines economic development director.
The eastern side of the Des Moines River has seen growth in all areas, but residential has grown at a much faster clip, she said. That bodes demand for more shopping and restaurants.
"I certainly think that there's energy and enthusiasm for the East Village and there's still demand to be met, and to encourage," Olson-Douglas said. "There's also continued enthusiasm for people to work in the East Village area."
Sloan Cownie, a real estate agent with Iowa Realty and a part of the development team, said they're in negotiations with at least six companies already interested in the space.
There's three stories of commercial office space totaling 45,000-square-feet. That could be leased by one large company, or divided into several office spaces.
The first floor is dedicated to retail and a possible restaurant with a patio on the west side, facing City Hall and the Des Moines skyline. The development team envisions a variety of services for the space, such as a dry cleaner or grocer or pharmacy.
"Ideally it would be uses that would be additive to the neighborhood," said local developer Tim Rypma. "As the East Village evolves, we believe the neighborhood needs more of these services."
It will also serve as a connector between the retail and shopping activity in the East Village — which has stayed primarily in the eastern half of the neighborhood — to the riverwalk and the rest of downtown Des Moines, he said.
The building itself will play off the eclectic nature of the East Village, Rypma said. The development team is considering using a technique called shou sugi ban. Shou sugi ban is a form of waterproofing that is created by burning the wood, making it a dark charcoal color.
The building's structure will be an eco-friendly building material called mass timber — the first in the state and only the second in the Midwest to use the product, manufactured in Canada by StructureCraft.
Mass timber is made by pressing together smaller planks of wood into one large piece, similar to wood beams found in historic structures. The product is as structurally sound as steel but is much more cost efficient, Cownie said.
It also has a lower carbon footprint than steel or concrete, and is a renewable product that can be reused or recycled. Mass timber is expected to last at least 100 years, Hayes said.
Structures built using mass timber are completed much quicker than other building materials, and construction can occur in any season. An 180,000-square-foot office building in Minneapolis, called T3, was built in 9 1/2 weeks, according to StructureCraft.
The building at 111 E. Grand will cost about $18 million. Construction is expected in April and should be ready for tenants in February 2019.
The development team, which also includes local businessmen Jim Cownie and Jake Christensen, also built the 600-stall parking garage on the site. It opened in October.
They're operating under a development agreement with the city for the parking structure, 111 E. Grand building, and another commercial development south of the garage. Plans for the third phase, which is required to be at least four floors with retail, office or residential space, are still being developed. The team will get 15 years of tax abatement in the form of tax increment financing for each phase of the project.
Des Moines will retain ownership of the western portion of the land, potentially for new city offices.
They will present design plans for 111 E. Grand building to the city's Urban Design Review Board on Feb. 27.