This year will mark the beginning of a transformational time for the DMACC Urban Campus, as a five-year campus renovation and construction plan gets underway.  

When spring arrives, construction will commence on a new Student Services and STEM building on the downtown campus of Des Moines Area Community College. The project is part of a $24 million overhaul aimed at modernizing the campus and increasing its visibility, said Anne Howsare Boyens, provost of DMACC Urban Campus. The building will be located north of Building 1 on Seventh Street, just south of University Avenue.  

“I would like for it to be a little bit of a beacon,” she said. “I would like for it to call attention to the work that we do here.” 

In addition to a new 60,000-square-foot student hub in the center of the campus, the original student center — Building 1 — will be refurbished, along with an expansion of Building 4, which houses the automotive technology program. 

Besides the improvements supporting academics and student services, two other significant projects will provide more services for low-income DMACC students as well as the community at large. Those projects include a move and expansion of the Evelyn K. Davis Center for Working Families, and a proposed partnership with Iowa Homeless Youth Shelter to create new on-campus apartments for DMACC students who have aged out of foster care. 

‘Building Community’ campaign to launch 

About half of the approximately 5,000 students enrolled at Urban Campus are people of color, distinguishing it as the most diverse college campus in the state, Howsare Boyens said. The campus also has a significant population of non-credit students, including many “new Iowan” immigrants and people working on high school equivalency courses. 

Although the construction and renovation projects could probably be entirely funded from the existing community college tax levy paid by Polk County property owners, it won’t be, she said. The DMACC Foundation has established a “Building Community” private fundraising campaign that will be formally launched this spring, she said. (See more on Page 30.)

The new building project, expected to be completed by October 2020, will be followed by a significant renovation of Building 1, the original campus building that was constructed more than 35 years ago. 

There’s a library here?

A key aspect of the Building 1 renovation involves moving the library to the central atrium of the building as part of a media center that brings together the library with the student achievement center and testing center. 

“Right now, all of our student services are located in this building [Building 1], along with quite a few faculty offices and our library and academic achievement and testing center,” Howsare Boyens said. “But it’s a little bit hidden and kind of shoehorned into areas. 

“What we really want to do is open up this building a little bit,” she said. “With the way the library is located right now, there are a lot of students who don’t even know it’s there — and that’s a problem on a college campus. This will move the library to the atrium area of the building so that when students walk into Building 1, they can’t miss the library.”  

Also this spring, the Evelyn K. Davis Center for Working Families will move from its present location north of the campus to a 23,000-square-foot building at 1171 Seventh St., which DMACC recently acquired from Anawim Housing. Moving closer to the center of campus will allow DMACC and the center to better coordinate services for many of the students who are also Davis Center clients, say administrators. A partnership between DMACC, the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines and the Directors Council, the Evelyn Davis Center is a nonprofit that offers programs for low-income residents to improve their financial position and connect them with their work and career goals.

DMACC, which is paying Anawim about $1.5 million for the building, plans to put about $500,000 in renovations into the facility, which will enable the center to offer English as a second language and information technology training classes on-site. About 11,000 people were served in the past year by the Evelyn Davis Center, which is now 6 years old. 

A bigger space for Ford automotive program

DMACC’s plans also call for adding approximately 2,800 square feet onto Building 4, also known as the Betts Building, to provide more space for the Ford ASSET program, which was moved to the Urban Campus from the Ankeny Campus this past fall.  

“We elected to move [the Ford program] down here because of some space changes, and also, we didn’t have an automotive program here at Urban Campus,” Howsare Boyens said. “We had a lovely facility, but didn’t have a program for three or four years.” 

The timing for the Betts Building renovation could occur before or after the more major Student Services and Building 1 projects, she said. “We’d like to start [Betts] and get it out of the way before we do these, but I don’t know if that’s going to happen.” 

In addition to the structural design work completed by Shive Hattery, Urban Campus administrators have received input from Cafe Diem, which will provide some much-needed food services in the new building. The coffee shop currently operates two locations on DMACC’s main campus in Ankeny and another adjacent to the campus, as well as its original Ames shop. 

“They have been wonderful partners already in giving us ideas about design and functionality in that,” Howsare Boyens said. “So that will be a great partnership.” 

Howsare Boyens said the goal of the fundraising campaign is to raise between $5 million and $7 million. Of that amount, $1.1 million has already been raised, through a $1 million gift from a DMACC alumnus and a $100,000 donation by a retired professor for the new library. 

Bids for the new Student Services and STEM building will be solicited in February, with groundbreaking expected sometime in the spring. n