Southern restaurant Tupelo Honey will anchor new Miesblock building in downtown Des Moines
The Diocese of Des Moines' Catholic Pastoral Center has undergone a $10 million renovation.
A new $11 million building at the corner of Grand Avenue and Seventh Street in downtown Des Moines will be anchored by the first Midwest location of a nationally known restaurant that specializes in Southern food.
Tupelo Honey Cafe plans to open on the first floor of Miesblock, 665 Grand Ave., in summer 2020. Microsoft has already opened an office on the third floor of Miesblock (pronounced MEES-blok) — a downtown Des Moines development that replaces an aging, city-owned parking garage that was razed in 2015.
Tupelo Honey Cafe started in Asheville, North Carolina, in 2000, and has more than a dozen locations, with more planned. Details of the Des Moines restaurant are still in the works. But the other locations serve brunch, lunch and dinner, featuring items like fried chicken, bourbon peppercorn glazed meatloaf, sweet potato pancakes and shrimp and grits.
The first-floor restaurant will have an adjoining, outdoor patio.
"We're really excited for them," said Alexander Grgurich, chief operating officer and director of development for Nelson Construction & Development.
The three-story Miesblock, with its sleek black exterior and minimalist design, is a nod to the style of its neighbor, the Catholic Pastoral Center. The diocese building, a hidden gem for local architects and history buffs, was designed by famed German architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.
Nelson hired Mies' grandson, Dirk Lohan, as a consulting architect on Miesblock.
"We knew we could never recreate what Mies did next door, but we wanted to pay homage to it," Grgurich said.
The same black material is used on both Des Moines buildings; both have outdoor plaza spaces with Mies' favorite planting, the locust tree; and both feature straight, clean lines.
Mies was known for his minimalist design that showcases a building's structure. He set the standard for skyscraper design in the United States, according to de zeen magazine, a leading architecture and design publication.
Mies, who died in 1969, was the head of the architecture school at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, a campus he helped design. He fled there from Germany after closing his renowned design school, Bauhaus, amid the rise of Nazism.
Bauhaus moved three times before its closure — from Weimar to Dessau and then to Berlin.
The Miesblock building in Des Moines honors that history with its perforated scrim along three public-facing sides. Each side has the outline of an old hand-drawn map of those cities — Weimar on the west, Dessau on the south and Berlin on the east.
"It reads organic, kind of like a Carrara marble, but it's really a connection to Mies," Grgurich said.
The scrim pieces also serve as cooling element for the tenants inside — keeping heat down while still letting in light, he said.
"We aren't looking to just make little sculptures. We're here to make sure our building functions not only for our users but in the greater urban design context," Grgurich said. "We really care about good urban design and good architecture."
Part of the Miesblock project is a new "skywalk node" — essentially a stand-alone elevator shaft and outdoor staircase, providing a skywalk entrance from the project's plaza. Grgurich said the developer chose to keep the entrance separate to make it easier for pedestrians to find it.
It also features a pedestrian walkway between Miesblock and the Catholic Pastoral Center, connecting High Street to Grand Avenue.
Nelson plans to start construction next year on a 90-unit apartment building on the same parcel, northwest of Miesblock on what is now a grassy lawn. It would take about 15 months to construct.
Nelson is looking for a tenant for Miesblock's second floor, though Grgurich said Nelson has interested parties.
Kim Norvell covers growth and development for the Register. Reach her at email@example.com or 515-284-8259.
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