Drake University announced today it will collaborate with the Neighborhood Development Corp. to redevelop a plot of university-owned land along University Avenue. The initiative marks "a renewed commitment to the growth and development of the Drake Neighborhood," Drake officials said in a release.
The nearly 2.65-acre site is located on the south side of University Avenue between 25th and 27th Streets, excluding First Christian Church. Most of the site neighboring First Christian Church has sat empty for years, but it currently has five houses that are used for student housing and two university parking lots. The land previously served as the home of Memorial Hall, which was built in 1905 and razed in 1996 due to age.
 
Long-term plans under consideration call for assessing development possibilities elsewhere along University Avenue, with this first phase spurring future growth.  

"Drake University has been an anchor in Des Moines for 135 years and, with this request for proposals, the University is leading the way in attracting transformative development to the neighborhood," said Glenn Lyons, executive director of Neighborhood Development Corp. "Drake is setting themselves and the community up for success by forming a special committee to guide this project's trajectory, including campus administrators, faculty, staff, trustees, a local business owner, and neighborhood residents."
 
Drake University President Marty Martin, who recently celebrated the conclusion of his first year on campus, said the university is looking at tangible and viable ways for Drake to integrate more fully with the surrounding neighborhood.
 
"The plans that come out of this process will be a collaborative effort that catalyzes economic development in the area and enhances the student and community experience," Martin said. "Drake is committed to working with partners who will build something that people will be proud of and is befitting of this prominent location."
 
Martin also noted the impact that construction on the north side of campus is already having on recruitment efforts for students interested in STEM programs. He said the University Avenue project will add a new dimension of excitement for students and the surrounding community.
 
Eleven Iowa-based developers will have six weeks to respond to the RFP. The university will then assess the proposals, including any necessary work to prepare the site for development. Drake will engage the neighborhood and surrounding communities throughout the RFP process to ensure the community is apprised of new developments, officials said.

In the coming months, the university will lead key stakeholders through the formation of a master plan for development along University Avenue, which will take into account long-term needs for the University and its students as well as economic development for the areas surrounding campus.