Former Crazyhorse Guitars being restored to highlight historic features, will house restaurant and office space
Meet Tobi Parks and Thomas Kutz, they run Station 1 Records, a Des Moines-based non-profit label with the goal of helping Iowa artists cultivate a career in music. They plan to open an accompanying music venue in 2018.
A local nonprofit is undertaking an historic rehabilitation of a 132-year-old building in the Drake neighborhood that was last home to Crazyhorse Guitars.
Neighborhood Development Corp. plans to spend about $700,000 restoring the building at 2331 University Ave. to its former glory. The remodel will make way for a restaurant on the first floor and Neighborhood Development Corp.'s offices on the second floor.
"We want to be sure it's thoughtfully restored," said Abbey Gilroy, executive director. "It will look just like it did back in the day."
Built in 1887, it was first home to a surgeon's office and later the Putman Rexall Pharmacy. Most recently, it was home to Crazyhorse Guitars, which opened in the location in 1996. The guitar shop specialized in high-end acoustic guitars. It remained open until the owner's death in 2018.
At some point, the building's original brick was painted and a maroon awning was added to the front. The brick will be restored. So will an original brick awning that was uncovered as contractors started work, Gilroy said.
The building's original storefront will also be restored, with windows on the corner and along University Avenue.
The restoration is expected to be complete in November.
Shannon O'Connell, daughter of Crazyhorse Guitars owner John O'Connell, said she is glad to see the building being renovated instead of torn down.
"I drive by it a couple times a week to see the progress," she said. "I think a restaurant being there will be a good addition to the area. It was something I had suggested to him years ago when his business was slowing down."
A local restaurant operator has been identified for the first-floor space, but is not ready to announce its new location, Gilroy said. The restaurant will likely open in spring 2020.
Neighborhood Development Corp. will move its three employees from leased space at 3209 Ingersoll Ave. into the second-floor office space.
The nonprofit, which focuses on redevelopment that will become a catalyst for neighborhoods, has been working in the Drake neighborhood for more than four years.
The organization built the Forest Avenue Village apartments at 32nd Street and Forest Avenue, and the University Avenue Village apartments at 23rd Street and University Avenue. It is in negotiations to purchase a retail building on Forest Avenue for future redevelopment.
"We want to integrate ourselves in a neighborhood we work in and are quite vested in," Gilroy said. "That really is exciting for us to be among the people we collaborate with."
The Crazyhorse Guitars building is next door to a proposed $63 million development spearheaded by Drake University that would include apartments, townhomes, commercial/retail space and an updated Varsity Theatre.
Drake unveiled plans in June that include demolishing the existing buildings to revamp the block between 24th and 25th streets from University to Forest avenues.
Drake has worked for years to redevelop the neighborhood around the Des Moines campus, known as Dogtown, including new buildings for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Central Iowa and Harkin Institute for Public Policy & Citizen Engagement, an extended stay hotel, and streetscape improvements along University Avenue.
"Quite frankly, the redevelopment in that area has taken off in the amount of time we've been there," Gilroy said. "The reinvestment occurring around us is really exciting."
Kim Norvell covers growth and development for the Register. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 515-284-8259.
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