Two high-profile Des Moines-area projects likely will be competing for funding through the Iowa Reinvestment Act Program, which allows a portion of sales and hotel-motel taxes generated from new projects to be captured and reinvested back into development areas. On the left is a rendering of a professional soccer stadium proposed for an area southwest of downtown Des Moines. On the right is a rendering of a multiuse stadium proposed in former department store space at Merle Hay Mall, which straddles Urbandale and Des Moines. Renderings provided to the Business Record


Backers of two high-profile developments proposed for the Des Moines area will likely be vying against each other for the ability to use a portion of state sales and hotel-motel taxes to help pay for their respective projects.

The Iowa Reinvestment District Program, in place since 2013, allows communities to use new state hotel/motel and sales tax revenue generated by a development to be reinvested in the area in which the development is located.

The state this year is providing up to $100 million in newly generated tax revenue to qualified projects. "Pre-applications" for the program are due Feb. 22-25, according to a state website.

The city of Des Moines is applying for the program on behalf of a project that includes development of a professional soccer stadium on a site that in 1983 was added to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Superfund list. The city of Urbandale, in partnership with Des Moines, is applying on a behalf of a project that includes converting a structure at Merle Hay Mall that previously housed a department store into a multiuse arena.

Both proposed projects would attract thousands of visitors annually to the Des Moines area. Both would also create new jobs, and both would transform eyesores into vibrant hubs of activity.

But whether both would get approved by the Iowa Economic Development Authority Board, the entity that oversees the program, is a crucial question. Typically board members like to spread economic development funds somewhat evenly throughout Iowa and between urban and rural areas.

Des Moines City Councilman Joe Gatto, whose ward includes the southeast part of the city, said the board will have a difficult decision in front of it.

For Gatto, though, the question is easy to answer.

"We’ve got an existing facility that we need to take care of," he said. "Merle Hay has been there for years … and we’ve got to make sure that it grows and thrives."

Gatto emphasized that both proposed projects "are great." But, he added, "I’m a realist and this is a competitive process. We’ve got an existing investment that we’ve had for years that we need to make sure that’s not going to die by the wayside so we can give something new and shiny a shot."

Des Moines City Councilman Josh Mandelbaum, whose ward includes the southwest part of the city, said the two projects are "competitive on their own merits … and are worthwhile regardless of what else is out there applying."

"I think these projects stand up well on their own," Mandelbaum said.

According to the state website, applications for the reinvestment program will receive points in several areas including uniqueness, economic impact, project feasibility, capital investment, funding leverage, nonretail focus and readiness for development.

A decision on what projects receive funding will be made sometime in the spring.

Scott Sanders, Des Moines’ city manager, said the two proposed projects "will bode well against others across the state."


Project snapshots

Multipurpose arena
In November, Merle Hay Mall owner Elizabeth Holland announced that space at the former Younkers department store will be transformed into a 3,500-seat multipurpose arena that would be the new home of the Des Moines Buccaneers hockey team. The arena would have four sheets of ice -- one for the Buccaneers and three others, all with bleacher seating, to host additional games, practices and tournaments. She said a 150-room hotel was also planned.
Read more:
Merle Hay Mall to become home of Buccaneers hockey team
From department store to multiuse arena

Professional soccer stadium
This week, backers of a proposal to bring professional soccer to Des Moines released details of a plan to build a professional soccer stadium complex on the former Dico Inc. site at 200 S.W. 16th St. Immediately surrounding the proposed stadium would be what’s being called the Global Plaza, parking for about 500 vehicles, a hotel and additional soccer fields as well as access to the Raccoon River. Pro Iowa, the campaign to bring profession soccer to Iowa, and Krause+, the real estate arm of Krause Group, are spearheading the effort.
Read more:
Details of $535 million proposed soccer stadium project revealed
Krause Group offers to help redevelop contaminated site south of downtown Des Moines