The building that for 75 years was home to Fairground Hardware is again for sale. An investment group that bought the structure in 2017 has decided not to redevelopment the building. Photo special to the Business Record

A 133-year-old brick two-story building that for 75 years was home to Fairground Hardware on Des Moines’ east side is once again for sale.

An investment group that bought the property at 2951 E. Walnut St. in May 2017 is selling the structure through an auction being handled by Ten-X Commercial, a California-based commercial real estate firm.

The auction ends today.

"There has been a lot of investment in that area by the Iowa State Fair and by [the private sector] around the fairgrounds," said Marcus Pitts, managing director of the Des Moines office of JLL, a commercial real estate agency. "This would be a great project for someone who has a passion for the fair and surrounding area."

JLL is assisting with the sale of the property.

The building sits on the southwest corner of East Walnut and East 30th streets, directly west of the fairgrounds.

Some redevelopment has occurred in the area. Econo Lodge Inn & Suites Fairgrounds Hotel was built in 2007 in the 400 block of East 30th Street. A QuikTrip at East 30th and University Avenue expanded in 2014. A larger convenience store was built and the number of gas pumps increased.

Anyone interested in buying the 2951 E. Walnut St. property could "lead a renaissance in that area," Pitts said.

Ten-X’s listing describes the building as "historic."

The 9,592-square-foot building was built in 1888 for the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, a fraternal organization that held its meetings in a hall on the second floor, according to a biography of the building on Ten-X’s website. During the first part of the 1900s, Corning’s grocery and general merchandise store was located on the first floor of the building, according to a Des Moines Register article published in 2017. A hardware store opened in the building in the 1940s.

Michael and Debra Robinson bought the hardware business in 1995. In 1998, the Robinsons bought the building from the Odd Fellows for $150,000, according to the Polk County Assessor's Office.

The building has been vacant since Fairground Hardware closed in late 2017.

The investment group that bought the building for $265,000 had planned to redevelop it, said Pitts, a spokesperson for the group. The outside of the building was vandalized after the hardware store closed. After repairs were finished, the group decided to sell the building rather than redevelop it, Pitts said.

The first floor could be converted to space for a restaurant or for retail, Pitts said. The top floor, which is mostly open, could be used as a venue hall or redeveloped as apartments, he said. "There is also significant income from parking cars on the lot during the Iowa State Fair."

"There is a shortage of affordable housing in Des Moines. Making this a mixed-use building would also be feasible," Pitts said.

The property was valued at $105,000 by the assessor this year, records show. The opening bid must be at least $75,000, according to Ten-X’s website.