A one-story building with a brick exterior would replace an existing structure at 111 Fifth St. in West Des Moines' Valley Junction district, a city group learned this week. A restaurant and retail space are proposed in the building. Architectural rendering by Substance Architecture


Two Des Moines-area developers are proposing to redevelop property at Fifth Street and Railroad Place in West Des Moines, a main entry point to the historic Valley Junction commercial district.

Plans include demolishing the existing one-story building at 111 Fifth St. (see map below) and replacing it with a 4,500-square-foot building with a brick facade, images shared with West Des Moines’ Development and Planning Subcommittee this week show. The subcommittee includes City Council members Renee Hardman and Matt McKinney.
The proposed building would also include a 1,400-square-foot patio that would wrap around the south and east sides of the new building.

The project’s developers are Scott Cutler and Tim Rypma, both of whom have developed other projects in Valley Junction, where West Des Moines got its start. Fifth Street is considered the "spine" of the historic district, according to a nomination application to the National Register of Historic Places.

Cutler, who was at this week's meeting, declined to comment on the project. Rypma was out of town and unavailable for comment.

At this week’s meeting, Justin Burnham of Substance Architecture shared plans for the proposed project with the subcommittee. A restaurant is planned in about 3,300 square feet of the proposed building; the remainder of the space would be retail space.

The exterior of the proposed building would be constructed in red brick. Burnham said he and others matched the brick to bricks used in other Valley Junction buildings.

The one-story building currently on the site was constructed in phases, Burnham told the subcommittee. The Polk County assessor’s website shows that the first phase of the building was built in 1935.

In September, the project received overwhelming support from the Historic West Des Moines Master Plan Steering Committee, a group reviewing and proposing updates to the Valley Junction master plan. During the updating process, a temporary moratorium on development was implemented by the City Council. The moratorium expires in early November.

"I think this [proposed] structure looks like other buildings in Valley Junction and it goes above and beyond our minimum standards," McKinney said. "I believe this is a project that ought to move forward."

Hardman also said she is supportive of the project.

"I think that the vitality that this is going to bring to that area is one of many steps that I think is going to draw people to this area," she said. Hardman said she recently visited the site. The proposed building "versus what is there now, I was like ‘Wow.’ It’s just unbelievable."

Steve Frevert, executive director of the Historic Valley Junction Foundation, told the subcommittee that the foundation’s board also supports the project.

The City Council is expected to vote in early November on whether to allow the project to move forward. If the council supports the project, the developers must get site plans approved by various city officials and groups.

A city official told Hardman and McKinney it could be four to six months before the existing building on the site is demolished.