Roger Ferris isn't picking favorites, at least not at this point, among the five big ideas for developing a two-acre parking lot across the street from his Fourth Avenue condominium, but you can bet he has some ideas on how development should play out.
Even with those ideas in hand, Ferris, who is president of the SoCo on 4th homeowners association, is quick to point out that the best idea is whatever is best for the city. SoCo on 4th formerly was called the 4th Street Condo Owners Association, and represented residents of a Hubbell Realty Co. development.
"Any plan has to be good for the city of Des Moines, but it has to interact well with the neighborhood and adjoining properties," said Ferris, a retired attorney who took a keen interest in possible development of the city-owned parking lot long before five developers submitted their concepts to the city last week.
Fourth Avenue has turned into a residential neighborhood in a little less than a decade. By Ferris' count, there are 164 housing units stretching south from Court Avenue to the Science Center of Iowa. As president of the homeowners association, Ferris wants to make sure the 46 condominium owners he represents have some input in development.
"We were really excited by the plans," he said, but also believes that some fell short on taking into account the residential character along Fourth.
Plans submitted by West Des Moines-based Hubbell and Minneapolis-based Sherman Associates Inc. and The Opus Group all presented plans that emphasize residential units along Fourth.
Ferris and other condominium owners met with representatives from Hubbell and Sherman before their plans were presented to the city. He said both companies seemed interested in hearing from the property owners.
Meetings are planned in the next several days with Justin Mandelbaum, who has proposed a development that, at this stage, is long on entertainment options and short on living space, and a group made up of Greater Des Moines-based Knapp Properties Inc., Hy-Vee Inc. and OPN Architects Inc., who have caught a lot of attention with their proposal for a full-service grocery store topped by apartment units.
Ferris said it is up to city leaders to determine whether a full-service grocery store fits with the neighborhood. He also pointed out that some of the proposals appear to leave space for a smaller grocery store.
"We are very anxious to see a grocery store in this project," he said.
He also is concerned about the potential for Fourth to become a traffic corridor that could result in a bottleneck at the science center.
"I have been very pleased with the extent to which some of the developers listened and incorporated some of the thought we were expressing. None incorporated all of our thoughts," Ferris said. "It is their project and not ours."
He also praised the city for listening to residents' concerns.
"The city, at every stage, has been responsive to our requests for information. They have heard our very preliminary thoughts, and at time when all of those thoughts are still fleshed out, I will be giving them a very extensive review," Ferris said.
Click here for a summary of the development proposals.