West Bank, West Des Moines’ oldest business, is making a long-term commitment to remain in the community with the construction of a new headquarters that will be built on a high-profile site adjacent to Interstate Highway 235.

Featured in the four-story, 62,000-square-foot building will be areas to entertain customers and host events, including an outdoor rooftop terrace. A lower level will open to a patio that overlooks a new water feature surrounded by trees.

The new headquarters, with an exterior that will include natural stone and glass, are planned on about 7.5 acres at 3330 Westown Parkway, where a mostly empty neighborhood shopping center, a vacant restaurant building and three other structures including a brewery are located. To the north is Valley West Mall, an older shopping mall that numerous retailers have left. 

“We saw an opportunity to own our own building and further support our community by building in a redevelopment site that could use the benefit of some new life,” David Nelson, president and CEO of West Bancorporation Inc., parent company of West Bank, told the Business Record. 

The bank’s headquarters currently are located in an office building at 1601 22nd St. in West Des Moines that it has leased since 1972. West Bank’s lease expires in about 30 months.

“We hope that by our presence and our reinvestment in [the new site], it will help spur additional redevelopment in the area,” Nelson said.

West Bank’s deep community roots

West Bank was founded in 1893 in Valley Junction, a railroad community where West Des Moines got its start. The bank, originally called First Valley Junction Savings Bank, began the same year Valley Junction was incorporated as a town, according to a National Register of Historic Places nomination document.

The bank was located on the northeast corner of Fifth and Walnut streets in a two-story brick building described as the first brick structure erected along Fifth Street, according to the nomination document. The owner of the building, which is still in use, was Herman Raaz, who with his wife, Anna, founded the bank.

In 1938 the bank’s name was changed to West Des Moines State Bank, and in 2003 it became West Bank.

In 1960, the bank moved to a building at 125 Grand Ave. in West Des Moines. The site on Grand Avenue “was where our headquarters was for several years,” Nelson said.

The bank moved to its current location at 22nd Street and Westown Parkway in 1972, leasing space in the 40,000-square-foot, four-story building whose exterior includes a striking steel finish.

Nelson said bank officials contemplated buying the structure but were hesitant because of its age. 

“We believe we should own our buildings,” said Doug Gulling, chief financial officer of West Bancorporation, which became a publicly traded company in 2002.

Over the years, the financial institution has grown to include seven Des Moines-area locations, a branch in Coralville, and four in Minnesota. The company currently owns four locations. It will own two others in Minnesota when construction of the buildings is completed. The remainder of the branches are located in leased space. As leases come due, West Bank will likely attempt to buy the properties, Gulling said.

“We think it’s financially advantageous for us to own our property, particularly when [we] plan on being in a location for an extended period of time,” he said. Leases tend to increase every five years or so, while costs associated with owning property remain fixed, he said.

Close on new headquarters site in January

The site planned for West Bank’s new headquarters is about a mile west of its current headquarters.

The company has entered into a contract to buy the property and expects to close on the transaction in late January, Nelson said.

Minnesota-based HGA was hired to design the new headquarters. The company designed other new West Bank buildings located in Minnesota. Formation Group, a Johnston-based building development and planning consulting group, was hired to guide West Bank through the various stages of the project. 

In October, West Bank was named one of the country’s top 35 small-cap banks by a nationally recognized investment firm.

“We are perennially recognized as one of America’s top-performing banks,” Nelson said. “We’re not a mass-market bank; we’re a relationship-based community bank. We’re not a big advertiser, so we want our building to reflect the bank itself and our relationship-building focus.

“This building is going to be very different than what most people would think of as a traditional bank building.”

The new headquarters will include several areas in which to hold public and companywide events and entertain guests, Nelson said. At night, special lighting will make the building visible to passersby on the interstate.

The building’s ground-level floor will be dedicated to areas where customers interact with West Bank staff. A lower level, which will open up to a patio that overlooks a pond, will include an employee break room, meditation room, fitness area and mother’s room. Legal, finance and other operational departments will be on the third level. On the top floor will be executive offices and the boardroom, as well as entertainment areas including golf simulators.

Reviving area around Valley West Mall

The area around Valley West Mall – and the mall itself – has become increasingly desolate as retailers either closed or moved closer to Jordan Creek Town Center, which opened in 2004 about five miles to the southwest in West Des Moines.

Von Maur department store, one of two remaining anchors at Valley West, has said it will move its store to Jordan Creek in fall 2022. In 2018, Younkers closed its Valley West store that anchored the south end of the mall. The closing sparked other retailers to shutter their spaces in and around the mall. The pandemic has caused other closings.

Earlier this year, a plan was unveiled to redevelop the mall site, transforming it into a vibrant activity hub by adding new residences, outdoor gathering places and a hotel with event space. The redevelopment was expected to help rejuvenate the mall site as well as nearby retail areas.

The city of West Des Moines, however, was unsuccessful in its bid to secure state funding for the redevelopment plan. A mall spokeswoman has said changes will occur on the site even though the proposed project didn’t receive state funding.

Valley West Mall, which opened in 1975, is owned by Minneapolis-based Watson Centers Inc.

Clyde Evans, West Des Moines’ community and economic development director, said West Bank’s plan to build a new headquarters south of Valley West is a sign that the area is worth investing in.

West Bank “is making a statement that they very much believe in the redevelopment of this area,” Evans said. “We hope that this will be a catalyst for other redevelopment.”

Evans said redevelopment of the site also is a signal to developers and others contemplating becoming involved in the remaking of the Valley West Mall site that the area is on the rebound.

Redevelopment is already occurring.

A year ago, ClaimDoc LLC, a medical claim auditing and advocacy company, bought property at 3200 Westown Parkway that previously was home to a fitness center. The property is adjacent to the property West Bank is purchasing.

More than $3.8 million in renovations were made to the building during the first half of 2021; ClaimDoc moved into its new offices in midsummer.

Next steps for new headquarters

West Bank officials hope to close on the land purchase in late January. The property is currently owned by Shoppes at Valley West LLC, which is managed by Urbandale-based Vista Real Estate and Investment Corp., records show. The group purchased the property, valued at $2.2 million, in 2014.

In December, the West Des Moines City Council is expected to give Evans authorization to begin negotiating a development agreement with West Bank. The final terms of the development agreement must be approved by the council. In addition, a site plan must be approved by various city entities and a building permit issued.

Once the site plan is approved, existing buildings on the property will be razed and the site will be cleaned.

(Five buildings are on the site, four of which will be torn down. The Bank of America building will remain until the end of the bank’s lease, which is in about nine years. Twisted Vine Brewery, which is located on the site, is relocating to downtown Des Moines’ Market District.)

Construction of the new West Bank headquarters is expected to begin in the spring with completion by spring of 2024.

West Bank officials have been contemplating building a new headquarters for several months. Concerns about the availability of construction materials caused the process to move slowly, they said.

“We’re very cognizant of what potentially could happen,” said Matt Brown, president of Formation Group. “Everything that we’ve done to date has been mindful of the domestic, local geography – how can we make sure we procure as much as possible without worrying that the products we need will be sitting in a shipping container forever? That’s a concern.”

Most of the products that will be used in the building will be purchased from companies located in the Midwest, Brown said.

A final cost of the project has not yet been determined because of fluctuating costs and inflation, he said.

However, the development agreement will likely require a minimum assessed valuation of $22.8 million, although Evans said the project’s value will likely be much higher.

West Bank History

The following is a timeline of West Bank’s history. A full timeline can be found at https://bit.ly/3kxgDDv.

1893 – First Valley Junction Savings bank is founded by Herman and Anna Raez. Bank is located at Fifth and Walnut streets in Valley Junction, now known as West Des Moines.
1938 – Bank is renamed West Des Moines State Bank.
1960 –  Moves to new location on Grand Avenue in West Des Moines.
1972 – Moves to new headquarters at 22nd Street and Westown Parkway in West Des Moines.
1983 – Is purchased by its president, David Miller, and local investors.
1984 – West Bancorporation Inc. is formed.
2002 – West Bancorporation stock is listed on Nasdaq.
2003 – Is renamed West Bank.
2003 – Purchases Hawkeye State Bank branches in Iowa City.
2015 – Opens new location in Coralville.
2016 – Builds new facility in Rochester, Minn.
2019 – Enters three new markets in Minnesota: St. Cloud, Mankato and Owatonna.
2021 – Announces plans to build new headquarters along Interstate 235 in West Des Moines.