A Des Moines developer plans to restore property at 2525 Grand Ave. to its original use as hotel. An adjacent building would be developed as a restaurant. Architectural rendering by Slingshot Architecture.

In 1962, a Howard Johnson motor lodge opened at 2525 Grand Ave. in Des Moines. More than 25 years later, the building was converted into apartments.

Now a Des Moines developer wants to return the three-story structure to its original use in an $18.3 million project that includes renovating the building so that it has the look and feel of a 1950s-60s hotel, according to city documents.

“We’re trying to create a unique boutique hotel experience in Des Moines,” said Jake Christensen, the project’s developer. “The 1950s-style of the building will lend itself to creating a vibe and feel that currently doesn’t exist in Des Moines.”

The project, which includes converting a medical building at 2515 Grand Ave. into a restaurant and bar, is scheduled to be discussed at the Urban Design Review Board on Tuesday.

The recent development activity along the corridors of Grand and Ingersoll avenues makes the area ripe for a hotel, Christensen said.

Kris Maggard, the Avenues of Ingersoll & Grand’s executive director, agrees.

The Western Gateway business district is just east of the proposed hotel and Drake University and the airport are nearby, she said. That section of Grand and Ingersoll avenues is filled with restaurants, bars and music venues, she said.

“It’s an impressive section of the city for visitors to see,” Maggard said.

The proposed hotel project is one of several planned or underway along Grand and Ingersoll. Among them:

  • A $17 million streetscape project along Ingersoll between Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway and 28th Street. The first phase of the project, which also includes upgrading infrastructure and public utilities, begins in March.
  • A Lincoln Savings Bank is under construction at 1922 Ingersoll Ave.
  • Harry Bookey and Pamela Bass-Bookey plan to renovate a portion of a former church at 3750 Grand Ave. and build an eight-story condo building. The project is valued at $35 million.
  • Newbury Living this fall is completing the construction of a luxury 27-units apartment project at 4000 Ingersoll Ave. In addition, the company is revitalizing an adjacent historic brownstone duplex. The project is expected to be completed this fall.
  • More than $100,000 in public art is planned in the area. In August, a sculpture was installed at Collaborate DSM, 3106 Ingersoll Ave. This week, a Larassa Kabel sculpture is being installed at Plymouth Place, at 42nd Street and Ingersoll Avenue.

Having a hotel in the area is “a game changer,” Maggard said. “As a destination district, we’re thrilled at the prospect of a hotel in the mix, especially a unique concept reflecting the mid-century character.”  

The Des Moines City Council in September approved preliminary terms of an urban renewal development agreement that includes tax increment financing over 14 years capped at $2.5 million, or at 13.7% of the $18.3 million in development costs. It is estimated the project will generate about $3.6 million in hotel-motel tax revenue during the 14 years. In addition, it’s estimated more than $15 million in tax revenue will be generated from the project over 30 years.

Christensen is also seeking federal and state historic tax credits and is working with the State Historic Preservation Office on design requirements, according to city documents.

“The appearance of the [building] is going to change dramatically,” Christensen said. “I think people will be surprised by what we plan on doing.”

Currently, about 75 people live in the building, that Christensen said “is not ideal for apartment living.”

Tenants will be assisted with finding other places to live, Christensen said. 

Renovation of the building will likely begin in spring 2020 with completion slated for early 2021, he said.

Right: A 1960s-era Howard Johnson Motor Lodge. Photo included in Des Moines city document.
Left: The three-story building at 2525 Grand Ave. is currently an apartment building. Photo by Polk County Assessor