If you could hear it, the collective heartbeats of Business Record readers would be all aflutter at news that a 
Hy-Vee Inc. grocery store could open in downtown Des Moines.

That’s the first impression from reading the results of an informal online Business Record survey to find out which of five development proposals for a 2.3-acre lot at 420 Court Ave. caught our readers’ fancy.

All five proposals, three from local developers and two from Minneapolis developers who have established a strong presence in Greater Des Moines, call for buildings at least five stories tall. What occupies them is another matter.

There is no shortage of interesting ideas: A movie theater, indoor farmers market, green space, open-air market, art-layered beacon and retail are just some of the ideas proposed.

Des Moines Assistant City Manager Matt Anderson said staff will recommend a plan to the City Council by Feb. 24.


Knapp Properties Inc. and Hy-Vee Inc., West Des Moines, 54%

Architect: OPN Architects Inc.
Features: A 35,000-square-foot Hy-Vee store offering the grocery chain’s full range of services, including a pharmacy, flower shop, Midwest Heritage Bank, bakery and restaurant, on the first floor, with four floors of apartments above and a pocket park. First-floor windows could swing, slide or pivot to reveal an open-air market.
Parking: A 256-stall parking garage on the south side of the property and an additional 150-space surface parking lot.
Housing: 60 apartments.

Mandelbaum Properties, West Des Moines, 24%

Architect: None listed.
Features: An entertainment center with a two-story movie theater, retail spaces on the first floor, a mezzanine level of office and service retail space, three floors of parking and an upscale bowling alley on the top floor.
Parking: Three floors of parking.
Housing: None proposed.

Hubbell Realty Co., West Des Moines, 10%

Architect: Slingshot Architecture, Reynolds Urban Design and Walker Parking Consultants
Features: Court Avenue Station envisions an internally lit passive cooling tower cloaked in art called The Beacon, and allowing the Downtown Farmers Market to expand into a public-private courtyard. Two buildings, one with condominium units over commercial first-floor tenant spaces and restaurants and a second with more rental space and a parking garage.
Parking: 363-stall parking garage
Housing: 160 residential units total.

Sherman Associates Inc., Minneapolis, 9%

Architect: Des Moines architecture firms Confluence and Substance.
Features: An indoor farmers market with 10,000 square feet of flexible covered courtyard space, along  with public and private parking and market-rate housing.
Parking: 580 parking stalls, with about 375 available for public parking.
Housing: 121 market-rate apartments.

The Opus Group, Minneapolis, 2%

Architect: Confluence of Des Moines and ESG of Minneapolis. 
Features: A five-story structure with 15,000 square feet of commercial space, luxury apartments above and public and private parking.
Parking: Public parking would be provided at ground level, and residents would have access to private below-grade parking.
Housing: 180 luxury apartments.

Reader Responses

We asked: Which proposal for 420 Court Ave. do you think should be picked for downtown Des Moines?

Knapp Properties Inc. and Hy-Vee Inc.:
Downtown needs a grocery store; it would be a 
great addition and a perfect location for one.
- BJ Baker - CEO, Baker Group

Sherman Associates Inc.: 
I find it hard to determine from the generalities presented, so I hope that the city officials receive better information upon which to judge a winning solution for Des Moines. It would appear that each proposal has strengths, offering benefits to our community. A merger of ideas seems possible, but if I have to choose, I select Sherman Associates, so that we can see the realization of  an interior farmers market - will we support it? A good question, yet to be answered. That said, there remains great appeal within the Hubbell Realty proposal. I am curious if additional luxury apartments would thrive downtown? Time will tell!
- Chaden Halfhill - President, Silent Rivers Design + Build

Hubbell Realty Co.:
Hubbell Realty has a long-standing tradition of improvement in the Des Moines area and is a trusted name to develop this area. Their plan addresses two big things downtown is looking for: commercial and residential space. Included is a much-needed parking garage to accommodate this influx. The farmers market vision to expand into a courtyard is another example of how Hubbell is trying to build on existing downtown needs.
- Chantelle Mathany - Development and communications coordinator, Alzheimer’s Association

Mandelbaum Properties:
There were many good options, but I believe the more entertainment options there are for downtown, the greater the chances for drawing people. I would recommend a 21-plus movie theater that serves alcohol and is more upscale like the Kansas City theater.
- Laine Mendenhall-Buck - Senior project manager, Visionary Services Inc.

Opus Group: 
We need as many residential units as possible, and there are better sites for a grocery store. 
- Anonymous

None of the above
Something does need to be done with the space, but we need to preserve the integrity of the district, not offer more housing that isn’t affordable to the general public. What about the view of the courthouse when looking west on Court Avenue? Will it be blocked?
- Anonymous

Knapp Properties Inc. and Hy-Vee Inc.:
That is a good location for a Hy-Vee. There are not other options for area residents to go to grocery stores.
- Jeff Bike - Vice president, Wells Fargo & Co.

Knapp Properties Inc. and Hy-Vee Inc.:
Knapp and Hy-Vee have clearly been paying attention to what downtown residents, and nearby neighbors, have been asking for. Now, it they could just add the Mandelbaum movie theater, it would be perfect.
- Kate Garner - On-air personality, Des Moines Radio Group

Hubbell Realty Co.:
The concept of “The Beacon” sounds unique and could add to the aesthetic appeal of Court Avenue.
- Anonymous

Knapp Properties Inc. and Hy-Vee Inc.:
Downtown is getting the affection we’ve long sought  with these proposals. All are top-notch and creative. But when you have Knapp and Hy-Vee ready to sign up, the fitting response is “Thank you, when 
do you want so start construction?”
- Marc Hollander - Business development coordinator, Whitfield & Eddy PLC

Sherman Associates Inc.:
This seems to cater to the type of individual who is most likely to live within the Court Avenue district. It will preserving parking, the farmers market and commercial opportunities.
- Lincoln Dix

Knapp Properties Inc. and Hy-Vee Inc.:
A grocer in the downtown area will be a major amenity for more development and have the biggest long-term economic impact.
- Nick Goede - Asset manager, Neighborhood Development Corporation

Knapp Properties Inc. and Hy-Vee Inc.:
There are plenty of entertainment options for downtown, and there’s a great existing farmers market. Aside from smaller independent grocers, there isn’t a full-service grocery store close by. That option makes sense to me. I would say my second pick is the movie theater, bowling alley option, just to bring something different for entertainment to downtown.
- Shawnna Stiver - Communications coordinator, Iowa Bankers Association

Knapp Properties Inc. and Hy-Vee Inc.:
Having a grocer downtown makes the most sense for the convenience of the many residents, especially those without transportation. The additional parking would be an effective solution as well. The Power & Light District in Kansas City proved that upscale bowling wasn’t the right fit for in that scenario.
- Sheri Thompson - Vice president, Plaza Lanes Family Sports Complex

Sherman Associates Inc.:
Court Avenue is NOT a place for a full-size Hy-Vee and big surface parking on Fourth. A supermarket will be a frozen food/liquor market in five years with that limited access and market. A supermarket could be great off ML King, three blocks south, where it is accessible to more people and semi delivery traffic won’t be a hassle.
- Anonymous

Knapp Properties Inc. and Hy-Vee Inc.:
It fixes one of the most critical needs for downtown residents - a universally accessible, full-service grocer. An Iowa success story, Hy-Vee would alter 
the downtown food and availability.
- Tej Dhawan - Principal and co-founder, StartupCity Des Moines

Knapp Properties Inc. and Hy-Vee Inc.:
With a supermarket, downtown will attract 
residents who want the full metropolitan lifestyle 
sans driving for daily needs.
- Teri Peterson - Marketing coordinator, Shive-Hattery Inc.

Mandelbaum Properties: 
Plenty of housing options downtown already and always looking for a variety of ways for entertainment that’s easier on the pocketbook than an event at Wells Fargo Arena.
- Anonymous

Knapp Properties Inc. and Hy-Vee Inc.:
I believe this area has long needed a full grocery 
store. The downtown area has many more residents now, and is growing rapidly. It has plenty of entertainment options, but needs more options 
for daily living conveniences.
- Chris Sorg - Senior leasing manager, Life Fitness, a division of Brunswick Corp.

Sherman Associates Inc.:
Housing combined with market, plus needed parking. Maybe a small grocery could go in. A Hy-Vee does not fit with the Court Avenue ambience.
- Anonymous 

Sherman Associates Inc.:
Parking, parking, parking. They’re only company willing to ensure that the city doesn’t lose out on such important faciliites. As a bonus, they’re enriching the value of the farmers market and adding non-income-restricted housing options.  Something downtown desperately needs.
- Anonymous 

Knapp Properties Inc. and Hy-Vee Inc.:
Significant and continued growth in downtown residential construction will require a grocery store. Additionally, this superior and stable tenant will bring a higher level of traffic to the area, and supplement the offerings of the activities in the area. 
- Anonymous

Mandelbaum Properties:
Theater is definitely more beneficial since more people would choose to go to this place.
- Jinyao Zhao - Owner, America’s Mattress

None of the above
Downtown desperately needs the parking, and I feel that a structure would block the beautiful courthouse.
- Anonymous