Hubbell Realty Co. wants the chance to submit a proposal for a 2.3-acre development block in downtown Des Moines, the same block where a Minneapolis-based company has sketched out a project.


As a result of Hubbell's interest, the city of Des Moines is expected to submit requests for proposals for anyone with a development scheme for 420 Court Ave., where the city had considered options for an entertainment district when it started buying property in the area in 2000.


The Opus Group, which is based in Minneapolis and has an office in West Des Moines, had presented a concept to city development officials and hoped to gain City Council approval to pursue its plan. Opus proposed a mixed-use area with market-rate apartments, retail and parking. The area has been a prime downtown parking location and is used for Des Moines' Downtown Farmers' Market.


Assistant City Manager Matt Anderson said during today's City Council workshop that he was uncomfortable advancing a single proposal for the Court Avenue project after interest was expressed by other developers.


After news of the Opus proposal broke last week, Hubbell tossed its hat in the ring.


The Opus proposal "caught us a little off guard," said Hubbell President and CEO Rick Tollakson.


Hubbell and Greater Des Moines developer Harry Bookey considered a project for the site several years ago, as did other developers. However many of those plans were scuttled because of the financial crisis.


Tollakson acknowledged that his proposal, which is very much in the concept stage, might have caught the city off guard, too. Hubbell's proposal also would include a range of uses, including retail and residential units.


Asking for proposals is the "most fair thing to do," Tollakson said, given the amount of interest in the Court Avenue site, which would be along a corridor near a rejuvenated public courts district, where voters have approved an $80 million referendum for renovations to the Polk County Courthouse, a recently acquired administration building north of the courthouse and a major rehab project for the former Polk County Jail to the west.


Tollakson also said that development of 420 Court might be tied to plans to demolish the city parking garage at Fifth Avenue and Walnut Street.


"People are concerned about parking," he said.


City Councilwoman Christine Hensley said during this morning's City Council workshop that staff should make certain that any developer chosen for 420 Court has the wherewithal to complete the project. Many developers, such as Hubbell, have a range of projects underway downtown. In addition, Hubbell also is being considered for renovation of the Seventh Street and Grand Avenue parking ramp, as is The Opus Group. Read a related story at