A public market at the Des Moines Social Club venue has been put on hold after initial due diligence, leaders announced today.


A Des Moines Social Club Transition Board of Directors was established in November to look into a public market after a June announcement about financial troubles with the current operating model. The Social Club is located at the art deco former Fire Station No. 1, 900 Mulberry St. in downtown Des Moines. 


The transition board recently worked with Project for Public Spaces, nationally known consultant in public market development, to conduct the initial due diligence assessment. While in Des Moines, its consultants did a tour of Firehouse No. 1 and other community spaces in addition to meetings with key stakeholders.


PPS recommended “starting small, listening to the needs of the community and creating a long term, sustainable plan.” It suggested continuing conversations with project stakeholders to “diligently invigorate renewed energy and activity in the Historic Firehouse No. 1.”


While public market plans are on hold, the board will explore other options for the space and sustainable business models. 


“We are taking the PPS results in stride and the board believes it is in the best interest of the community to keep Historic Firehouse No. 1 open and maintain the mission of the nonprofit,” said Rob Feeney, chair of the Des Moines Social Club Transition Board of Directors and president and chief operating officer of Atlantic Bottling Co. “Our number one priority is to ensure this space is sustainable before we take any next steps.”


Meanwhile, the anchor restaurant Malo has remained open. Other programming including cooking classes with Chef Cass, Iowa Circus Arts, Two Rivers Church, Narcotics Anonymous and the Viaduct Art Gallery are in place. “We’re here and offering programming,” said Cassandra Spence, or Chef Cass, of DSM Culinary. “Our cooking classes are filling up and we’re still enjoying the space at the Historic Firehouse No. 1.” 


However, Scenic Route Bakery decided to close its new Ninth Street location in December amid the transition.