James Spiller, Blackbird Investments’ design director, was put on the spot during Thursday’s Downtown Chamber event on top projects in 2020.

“What’s going on with Kaleidoscope at the Hub?” Spiller was asked during the question- and-answer portion of the presentation.

“What do you want me to say?” Spiller replied, half jokingly. “You want a timeline? You aren’t going to get one.”

Blackbird Investments, a Des Moines-based real estate development firm, unveiled plans in 2016 for an $85-million apartment tower on the northwest corner of Seventh and Walnut streets.  

Construction of the project, which included a cantilevered swimming pool that hung over the top of the building, was to begin almost immediately. It didn’t.

Two years later, Blackbird and EMC Insurance Companies announced they were swapping real estate: Blackbird took control of the eastern half of Kaleidoscope at the Hub and EMC, 701 Walnut St., the former site of the Younkers department store.

Blackbird officials said they planned to raze Kaleidoscope -- which included a food court, bank and other offices -- and build its proposed skyscraper on the at 555 Walnut St. site. Plans for the tower included affordable and luxury apartments and the swimming pool.

Demolition of Kaleidoscope was to occur in March with construction of tower completed by mid-2021. An empty Kaleidoscope at the Hub is still standing. Most businesses were closed by the end of 2018.

“We're working toward building a tower that provides affordable housing and a mix of different income apartments,” Spiller told the group of about 100. “That's our goal. We're working diligently to get it there. It's not done yet.”

Rachel Wegmann, Blackbird’s spokeswoman, told the Business Record the project has not been shelved.

The skyscraper “still stands firm in the vision of being built as a prominent residential building in the heart of downtown Des Moines that provides living opportunities for the full range of socioeconomic statuses,” Wegmann wrote in an email.

Plans still call for Kaleidoscope to be razed but that a date has not yet been set, according to Wegmann.

Carrie Kruse, economic development coordinator in Des Moines, said city officials don’t know when the demolition of Kaleidoscope could occur.

“This is a key site downtown and a major corridor for the skywalk system that we want to see redeveloped,” Kruse told the Business Record. She said the city officials meet “fairly regularly” with people from Blackbird.

Said Spiller at the Downtown Chamber event: “We’re going to get across the finish line,  just not today.”