Developer Justin Mandelbaum this week explained to the Urban Design Review Board changes made to his $200 million project along Fifth Avenue between Walnut Street and Court Avenue. The changes, listed in red above, include a flat roof on the 40-story tower instead of an angled roof and modifications to the theater that will front Court Avenue. Rendering by Solomon Cordwell Buenz
 
 
 
 
The Fifth in downtown Des Moines
By Kathy A. Bolten | Senior Staff Writer

WHAT: 
$200 million downtown project that includes a hotel, apartments, movie theater and restaurant, and parking garage.

WHERE: Fifth Avenue between Walnut Street and Court Avenue

BACKGROUND: In September 2015, the Des Moines City Council selected Mandelbaum Properties as the preferred developer for land owned by the city at Fifth and Walnut. The city entered into an agreement with Mandelbaum to build a parking garage, movie theater or hotel and a residential building. Mandelbaum’s project, called the Fifth, now includes an 11-story parking garage with 751 stalls; a 40-story tower with 209 luxury apartments, a 21c Museum Hotel with restaurant and bar, and a five-story commercial building that will include a movie theater. This fall, Mandelbaum unveiled a plan to add another element to the parking garage’s west façade: 435 colorfully lit windmills that move with the wind. The proposed artwork would cover the 20,400-square-foot west façade of the parking garage.

WHAT’S NEW: The Urban Design Review Board met on Tuesday to discuss proposed design changes in the project that include:

• A redesigned roof line in the 40-story tower. Originally, the roof line was angled. Now it’s rectangular in shape.
• The addition of a patio on the west side of the tower.
• Angled inset balconies instead of straight inset balconies.
• Thinner white border around the building.
• Triangular rather than rectangular exposed columns on the 12th level of the tower.
• Removal of a vertical slat screen wall across the hotel, parking garage and theater buildings. The screen wall was replaced with the art wall that includes windmills and lights.
• Redesigned theater building to accommodate revised floor plans.

While board members were supportive of the proposed art wall, they echoed city staff concerns about long-term maintenance of the windmill features and lights and the cost to replace broken or aged pieces. However, the board approved the proposed artwork with instructions to staff to explore options that would limit the amount of tax money that would be used to maintain the artwork.

The board was vocal about its dislike of the design changes made to the project.

"There was a consistency and intentionality about the original design," said Steve Wilke-Shapiro, a board member. "I think that is missing from the proposed redesign. Ultimately it appears to me to be three separate buildings that are mashed together. There's not the same thoughtful elements tying the experience together."

The board voted to reject the proposed design changes to the project because of the lack of continuity between the different buildings. The board does not have the final say. The project’s design and proposed art wall will be discussed by the City Council.

Said M
andelbaum: "The project is moving forward. ... I don't think anyone can look at our building and not think that it's outstanding."

A view of the Flying Fifth, artwork proposed for the west facade of the parking garage under construction along Fifth Avenue between Walnut Street and Court Avenue. The art would include 435 colorfully lit windmills that move with the wind. Rendering by Substance Architecture