Creating Living Space with Repurposed Buildings - ABC5 News Des Moines, IA

Creating Living Space with Repurposed Buildings

By: Jason Rantala


For decades, people had been migrating en masse from city to suburbs.

Nowadays, the trend has reversed. Supply for downtown housing is now struggling to meet demand. 

Downtown has reached 95 percent occupancy, as finding housing has become a "Where's Waldo?" of sorts.

So the solution? Build more "Waldos," or rather, repurpose them. Nelson Construction did just that, restructuring the Flemming Building for apartments.

"It's been very very popular for young professionals and I think it's just going to continue to grow as we convert some of these old architectural gems like the Flemming Building," said Executive Director Tim Leach, with The Downtown Community Alliance.

The 11–story building, formerly home to office space, has only a couple rooms left.

It's not just the Flemming Building that's turning into housing. The Des Moines Building is undergoing a similar transformation, so is the Mitchell Transmission Building, among others.

"To work and live down here, it is ultimately more affordable," said Leach.

Leach says downtown's 'renaissance' over the last 10 years has created demand. He cites affordability, as well as the development of Court Avenue, East Village and the Sculpture Park.

Joshua Spain works at New World Café and lives in Sherman Hill. He loves the great shops and being close to work.

"There's always something to do and I just love getting out and enjoying activities," said Spain.

Leach says the restructuring of some of Des Moines' classic architecture is only the beginning. He expects more development around the Wells Fargo Arena and Events Center area, in addition to the phased out renovations to Walnut Street.

"The planning that's taking place and the follow through that's going on those plans is working and people want to be part of it," said Leach.

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