Des Moines city officials are fast-tracking moving the city’s public works facilities out of the Market District, an area that is drawing increased interest in redevelopment.

The public works facilities are spread over about six blocks north of Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway between Southeast Second and Southeast Fourth streets. Officials had planned on moving the facilities in two phases over the next six or so years. Now, officials say the facilities will be out of the area within two years.

"We’re looking at clearing all of our property, all six blocks, within two years," Des Moines City Manager Scott Sanders said. Moving the facilities out of the area more quickly is being driven by "the markets saying that the whole area can be redeveloped in a rather quick manner," he said.

In September, a master redevelopment plan was released for the 260-acre Market District, an aged industrial area roughly bounded by East Walnut Street, East 14th Street, Scott Avenue and the Des Moines River. The area has been home to a recycling center, a scrap metal yard, body shops, the city’s public works yards and MidAmerican Energy Co.’s Two Rivers facility, which has been razed.
In December, ambitious plans were unveiled to redevelop a 31-acre area of the Market District between the Des Moines River and Southeast Sixth Street. Developer James Cownie, through his JSC Properties Inc., is proposing a development in that area that would include housing, offices, retail, entertainment and one or more hotels. Also in December, the City Council directed city staf to work with JSC Properties on a purchase agreement.

During a recent presentation at an Urban Land Institute-Iowa-sponsored event, Paul Hayes, JSC Properties president, said he expects "that ground will be broken in the summer and we’ll start seeing some vertical development not too long after that." Hayes didn't specify where the first project could be built, except to say that it wouldn't be on city-owned land.

Hayes has said JSC Properties will prepare the ground for development, including installing streets and other improvements. Others will do most of the brick-and-mortar development, he has said.

Before much of that can happen in the portion of the Market District nearest the Des Moines River, the city’s public works facilities must be vacated.

The city has acquired property near Southeast 18th and Maury streets, south of the Richard A. Clark Municipal Service Center at 1551 M.L. King Parkway. Designs for a new city facility will likely be completed this summer and construction started soon after, city officials said. The city has budgeted $57.8 million for a new facility that would house public works and city fleet services.

"We’ve started the architectural designs and are moving ahead," Sanders said.