Des Moines University officials confirmed this morning that DMU plans to start construction next spring to begin transforming an 88-acre tract of rolling farmland into a state-of-the-art campus in West Des Moines. The new campus, to be located just east of the Microsoft data center on the northwest corner of Jordan Creek Parkway and Grand Avenue, will replace the Des Moines campus it has owned since 1972 at 3200 Grand Ave. 

DMU announced in March its plans to relocate its campus from Des Moines to West Des Moines. During a ceremony held this morning at the future building site, DMU President Angela Walker Franklin said that DMU closed last week on the property owned by W&G McKinney Farms LLC for an undisclosed price. Located between South Jordan Creek Parkway and South 88th Street, it’s bounded to the north by Booneville Road. 

“Acquiring this property is the first important milestone toward realizing our vision for the development of a new campus that will ensure DMU remains a national, premier medicine and health sciences university,” Franklin said. The West Des Moines campus is expected to be completed and ready for students by DMU’s 125th anniversary in 2023. 

The university marked the occasion by having the DMU Mobile Clinic drive forward to reveal the vista of cropland bounded by hills to the north and a pond to the south. 

West Des Moines Mayor Steve Gaer, who was joined at the ceremony by City Manager Tom Hadden and Economic Development Director Clyde Evans as well as three council members, said he “couldn’t be more pleased” that DMU will join what the city calls the “Innovation Corridor” — flanked by the Microsoft Data Center to the west and the Des Moines Area Community College’s West Des Moines Campus to the east on Grand Avenue. 

“As one of the oldest and most well-recognized medical colleges in the country, it gives you an opportunity to start from scratch,” Gaer said. “We think it’s going to be the envy of the United States when it comes to medical education and treatment.”

Franklin said the potential cost of the new campus could run from $150 million to $200 million. 

“We feel very confident in our ability not only to raise money, but also from the proceeds from the Des Moines campus properties, which will soon be appraised,” she said. Franklin said the university may also use loans or bonds, or a combination of those, for financing the remainder of the project cost. 

DMU plans to continue to maintain and operate the DMU Clinic in Des Moines, but will sell the remainder of the campus buildings in Des Moines.

Franklin said that she and DMU officials learned about the McKinney land from the late attorney Bill Lillis, who was working with DMU initially in attempting to rezone the Des Moines campus for additional parking. When that effort was unsuccessful, Lillis began working with DMU to find alternative campus sites. In January, Lillis introduced university administrators to Wayne McKinney. 

“If he were still here, I know [Lillis] would be beaming with pride,” Franklin said. “He was the greatest champion for it through this entire process, and he was so excited about the prospect of this win-win-win partnership.” Lillis died on May 8. 

In recognition of Lillis’ role in making the connection, the new address for the campus was chosen as 8025 Grand Ave. Franklin said the ‘25’ in the address is representative of Lillis’ initials, “BL.” 

With a move to the west, will the name remain Des Moines University? 

“As long as Des Moines Golf and Country Club doesn’t change its name, I don’t think we’ll be changing our name,” Franklin said. Des Moines Golf and Country Club is in West Des Moines.