Hubbell Realty Co. is sticking with its plans for a midrise luxury condominium project at the site of the former Riverfront YMCA at 101 Locust St.

Hubbell President and CEO Rick Tollakson said that in its current version, the plan calls for three seven-story buildings and 120 luxury units. The known amenity is views of the Des Moines River. Tollakson is spearheading a regional water trails project that includes recreational opportunities along the Des Moines and Raccoon rivers in downtown Des Moines.

“It’s going to be the go-to spot to see what’s going on on the river,” Tollakson said.

As for the condos, Tollakson said sizes and configurations have not been determined. Instead, plans are certain to “morph” over time, just as they have over the nearly two years that Hubbell has owned the Riverfront Y site, a prime development location that also was the first choice of federal judges for a new $140 million federal courthouse.

On Aug. 7, the Des Moines City Council approved a put agreement in which the city would pay $5.2 million for the property if Hubbell determined it could not come up with a development plan for the site. The agreement expires Wednesday, with the possibility of a 60-day extension.

However, Hubbell plans to do what it does best, Tollakson said.

“I’m moving ahead like we’re going to develop it because we are developers; that is what we do,” he said.

Tollakson is confident that demand for condominiums downtown is more than a rumor. Hubbell has little trouble selling townhouses downtown, and it also plans condominiums as a housing choice for the Gray’s Station development between Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway and the Raccoon River. Hubbell plans a pedestrian bridge that will cross the Raccoon to Gray’s Lake as part of that 70-plus acre development.

Hubbell and the city have worked in the past to come to terms on development of the Riverfront Y site. City economic development representatives were not pleased with some Hubbell concepts and both sides remained far apart on the amount of development incentives.

The put agreement was an effort to block the Government Services Agency from acquiring the site for the federal courthouse. The GSA is still looking for a site, though Tollakson said he hears frequently from GSA officials. If the GSA offered the right price, Tollakson said he might consider selling.

“If they walk in with a purchase agreement, we’ll talk,” he said.

Hubbell bought the property for $4.7 million in October 2016 from the YMCA of Greater Des Moines. The site is located on land that was donated to the city by company founder Frederick M. Hubbell for construction of the Des Moines Coliseum, which opened in 1909 and was destroyed by fire in 1949.

At one point, Hubbell and Ryan Cos. US Inc. were said to be about to close a deal in which Ryan would buy the site, but the negotiations collapsed on the day an agreement was to be signed.

The put agreement with the city also calls for a development agreement in which Hubbell would receive 100 percent of project generated tax increment finance revenues. 

At one point, Tollakson and the city had hoped that the project would include a luxury hotel to help ease financing of the project. Tollakson said 21c Museum Hotels of Louisville, Ky., was among the operators he talked to. However, the company has agreed to operate a hotel at the Fifth, a proposed mixed-use project from Mandelbaum Properties that includes luxury apartments, a movie theater and commercial building and a parking ramp.

For now, Tollakson said the condo project calls for a coffee shop along the lines of Starbucks, Caribou Coffee or Zanzibar’s Coffee Adventure, a restaurant along the lines of Table 128 Bistro + Bar, and a cocktail lounge similar to Juniper Moon, all with views of the river. The three condominium buildings would be built around parking that takes up the interior of the site.

Deputy City Manager Matt Anderson, who along with City Manager Scott Sanders and Economic Development Director Erin Olson-Douglas meets with Hubbell officials once a month to discuss the company’s range of projects, speculated that one drag on securing a hotel for the project could be that major flags want to see how the Hilton operated convention center hotel fares. 

“The Hilton is the 800-pound gorilla in the room,” Anderson said.

Meanwhile, Hubbell has extended the put agreement to Aug. 28, he said.
 

Tollakson said the company will use that extension, and possibly additional extensions, to continue its planning. The extra time provides an opportunity to continue to seek a hotel operator and pursue other retail options that have come forward, he said.

Ideally, the project could be built in phases, with a condominium followed by a hotel or other commercial options in a second phase, he said.