An entity controlled by real estate developer and investor Richard Hurd recently purchased properties in Des Moines' Western Gateway. Photo by Polk County Assessor

 

Two high-profile buildings in downtown Des Moines’ Western Gateway have been sold to an entity controlled by real estate developer and investor Richard Hurd, real estate transaction records show.

Hurd Plattsmouth LLC paid $10 million on Dec. 13 for buildings at 1312 and 1408 Locust St. and surface parking lots at 1402 Locust St. and 1314 and 1320 Walnut St., according to Polk County Recorder's Office records. The properties, with a total value in 2019 of $6.3 million, had previously been owned by Westgate Partnership LLC, an entity controlled by entrepreneur Bruce Rastetter.

"We feel like that’s the preferred location for corporate headquarters going forward," Hurd said. "At some point, there probably will be either an expansion of Nationwide [Mutual Insurance Co.] or somebody else."

While Hurd said he doesn’t anticipate any headquarter expansions to occur immediately, he does expect that sometime within the next 10 to 15 years a company will want to locate in the area just south of the popular John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park.

"These are long-term holds for us," Hurd said of the acquisitions.

Property values in the Western Gateway, an area bounded by Ninth and 18th streets and High Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway, have more than tripled in the past 20 years, an analysis by the Polk County Assessor’s Office in 2019 for the Des Moines Business Record showed. The valuation growth significantly outpaced the rest of downtown, the analysis showed.

Among the properties Hurd bought was the Chamberlain Building at 1312 Locust St., in which Americana Restaurant is located. The brick building, constructed in 1915, is just south of the sculpture park. The building, which also includes offices, was valued at $1 million in 2009. Ten years later, it valued soared 150% to $2.65 million, the analysis showed.

Hurd also bought what’s known as the Flynn-Wright building at 1408 Locust St. The two-story building was constructed in 1919. Like the Chamberlain Building, it too is located just south of the Sculpture park. The building was valued at $3 million in 2019.

The area has a lot of synergy with the headquarters of four companies surrounding the sculpture park, Hurd said. Krause Group, the parent company of Kum & Go convenience stores, is located at 1459 Grand Ave., Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Iowa at 1313 Grand Ave., Nationwide at 1100 Locust St., and Meredith Corp. at 1615 Locust St.

"That’s the area of town that was most interesting to us because it more closely replicates what we do," Hurd said. About six years ago, Hurd’s company bought the former Dow Jones and Wall Street Journal building at 4125 Westown Parkway in West Des Moines and renovated it. The building, which was sold in 2016, is home to Shive-Hattery Inc. and Symetra Inc. In 2017, Hurd sold about 16 acres in the 7800 block of Mills Civic Parkway in West Des Moines to IMT Insurance Co. for its corporate headquarters.

"Those types of clientele are the ones we seem to do pretty well with," Hurd said.

He said there are no plans to make any changes to the two buildings his company recently bought, nor are there plans to attract new tenants.

"We want to work with the existing tenant base and try to make things better for them," he said. "We don’t plan to do anything that will disrupt them anytime soon. When I talk about redevelopment, I’m talking 15 to 20 years down the road."