An architectural rendering of a proposal to build an eight-story condominium at 3750 Grand Ave. and renovate a former church on the site. Rendering by Hartman Trapp Architecture of Des Moines.
An architectural rendering of a proposal to build an eight-story condominium at 3750 Grand Ave. and renovate a former church on the site. Rendering by Hartman Trapp Architecture of Des Moines.

When Harry Bookey and Pamela Bass-Bookey walk through their neighborhood on Des Moines’ west side, they often pass a historic stone church at 3750 Grand Ave. that had been home of First Church of Christ, Scientist.

They admired the church’s exterior limestone walls, stained-glass windows and steeple that reached into the sky.

About 10 years ago, First Church of Christ, Scientist moved to West Des Moines, abandoning the building that was constructed in 1931 and designed by the Des Moines architectural firm of Proudfoot, Rawson, Brooks & Borg.

The couple said they didn’t like that the historic structure fell into disrepair, becoming a blemish on the neighborhood.

"We started thinking about what we could do to preserve the building and do something unique," Bass-Bookey said.

Harry and Pamela Bass-Bookey
, owners of the real estate investment firm BH Equities, are buying the property and plan to restore a portion of the church and construct an eight-story condominium building that will include two floors of indoor parking.

The Des Moines City Council in September approved a preliminary urban renewal development agreement that includes tax increment financing over 10 years capped at $4.3 million, about 12% of the $35 million project’s development costs. It's estimated the project will generate $32.4 million in tax revenue over 30 years.

Other city approvals are needed for the proposed project to move forward. In addition, development plans will be discussed at neighborhood meeting on Thursday.

"It’s a challenging project, but it's an exciting opportunity to be able to preserve the past while putting together a dynamic development for our city’s future," Harry Bookey said.


The last church service was held in the building in July 2010. Polk County Recorder's Office records show that WesleyLife bought the property in 2012 for $775,000. The organization had planned to build a retirement center on the property, but the plans didn’t materialize. Instead the church sat empty. (Photo of the church in 1999, from the Polk County assessor's website.)

Specific plans for the Bookeys’ project include retaining and restoring the north side of the church, including the rectory, Sunday school wing, main entrance facade and courtyard. The remaining portions of the church will be torn down and a condominium tower constructed. Units in the condominium, which will range from 1,100 square feet to more than 3,000 square feet, will be priced between $355,000 and $1.6 million.

The condominiums will include floor-to-ceiling windows and 9-foot-high ceilings. All but one of the condominiums will have balconies with glass railings.

The couple want to presell about 70% of the condominiums before beginning construction, hopefully by spring of 2020. Construction will take about 18 months to complete, they estimated.

The plan is to retain as much of the interior of the church as possible, including the exposed wood beams, stained glass windows and lighting fixtures, said Kate Miller, senior asset manager for BH Equities. "We want to salvage and repurpose as much as we can."

Portions of the original church will be converted to a large club room, a cafe lounge for residents, a fitness center and suites for overnight visitors. In addition, a swimming pool and sun deck will be added as well as a green area for dogs.

Hartman Trapp Architecture of Des Moines is the project’s architect; Neumann Brothers is its general contractor.

The Bookeys have experience in redeveloping historic buildings. In 2001, they bought the historic Masonic Temple building at 1011 Locust St. The building, constructed in 1913, was threatened with demolition as city officials made plans for the area now known as the Western Gateway. Instead, the Bookeys bought the building and rehabilitated it. It’s now the Temple for Performing Arts and the Des Moines Symphony Academy and Centro restaurant.

The couple have also been involved in redevelopment along Court Avenue, including renovation of the building that houses Spaghetti Works. They also built two apartment properties as co-partners with Hubbell Realty Co.

To see more photos of the proposed project, click here.