Equitable Building rehab could launch in the spring
Wednesday, December 11, 2013 12:32 PM
The renovation of the historic Equitable Building in downtown Des Moines should begin next spring with the completion of a complicated financing package with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, owner Shawn Foutch said.
Foutch and his brothers Scott and Steve bought the 19-story granite and terracotta icon at 604 Locust St. in February 2012 for what many considered a paltry $460,000 from Great Southern Bank.
They plan an $18 million rehabilitation that will include two floors of office space, then market-rate apartments to the 17th floor, where condominiums will be developed. A fitness center, storage area and gathering spot for tenants will be in the basement, Foutch said.
Once the financing is closed, the renovation should be completed by late 2015 or early 2016.
Once the home of Equitable of Iowa Cos., the Gothic-style building, which is topped by what appears to be a large lantern looming over downtown, once was the tallest in the city, holding that title from its completion in 1924 until 1973, when the Financial Center opened on Walnut Street.
Chicago investors paid $11.3 million for the Equitable Building in 1989. Developer Bob Knapp bought the building for $5 million in 2005 and lost it four years later to Vantus Bank, which was acquired by Missouri-based Great Southern Bank. It acquired the building for $3.6 million at sheriff's auction. Knapp is expected to be released from federal prison in March after serving time for violating the federal Clean Air Act while removing asbestos from the building.
Knapp's plans were to create upscale condominiums. He sold four units, including a $1 million build-out by former Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc. chairman Charles Johnson.
The Foutch brothers also teamed up with Nelson Development & Construction to buy the then-shuttered Des Moines Building at 405 Sixth Ave. for about $150,000 from the city of Des Moines, which acquired it for $1.
A $25 million renovation is underway that will include 136 apartments with additional office, retail, and restaurant space. The project involves demolishing an adjacent building to create a private pocket park. The developers are preserving art deco detailing in the lobby and the 360-degree rooftop patio. That project should be completed next year.
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