History buffs turning East Village train depot into Des Moines museum

A newly formed group of preservationists has purchased a 108-year-old train depot in Des Moines' East Village, potentially saving it from a wrecking ball.The Des Moines Heritage Trust bought the former East Des Moines Union Depot, 120 E. Fifth St., this summer with plans to convert it to a museum showcasing the city's history.The group also plans to build an event center adjacent to the train depot that will be used for weddings, corporate meetings and other public events.The newly named Des Moines Heritage Center will cater specifically to local historic organizations looking to host educational and cultural programming, said Tim Waddell, vice-chair of the Des Moines Heritage Trust. "We hope to empower these groups and create a home for heritage within the Des Moines community," he said. "But we're also proud to revive this historical landmark and bring additional revenue to the East Village."The nonprofit was formed specifically to save the depot, though it plans to work on other preservation projects in the future. They feared the historic structure would be demolished among the Market District's booming growth, Waddell previously told the Register. The East Des Moines Union Depot was built in 1909 by W.H. Brereton for the Des Moines Union Railway, according to the city of Des Moines. It once served as a gateway to the city's east side.Though eligible, the 2,000-square-foot depot is not listed on the National Register of Historic Places or designated a landmark. In 2015, the Des Moines Rehabbers Club, another preservation group, called the train depot one of the seven most endangered buildings in the city. It was purchased by the Des Moines Heritage Trust in June for $500,000 with grant help from the city of Des Moines and Polk County, who contributed $250,000 and $150,000, respectively. The rest was raised by private donors. A grey warehouse connected to the north of the depot will be Continue Reading

Four mobility hubs opened around Des Moines

Des Moines residents now have increased access to a different type of public transportation.The Des Moines Bicycle Collective teamed up with the Des Moines Regional Transit Authority to open four mobility hubs around Des Moines this summer. Each hub features terminals for both DART buses and BCycle stations.BCycle is part of the Bicycle Collective's bike-sharing initiative. A BCycle member uses the kiosk at each station to rent a bike. They can then use the adjustable bike and park it at any B-Station in the city.In the last year, nearly 59,500 riders used the bicycle rack on the front of the DART bus, a 240 percent increase from 2007, according to a press release from DART and the Bicycle Collective. The shareable bicycles cannot be used on the DART bike racks."Riding the bus and bicycling complement each other, and incorporating both into one location will be a great asset to the community," DART Chief Engagement and Communications Officer Amanda Wanke said in the press release.The first hub was installed in July and was funded by the Hubbell Realty Company. The hub is located downtown, on SW 9th Street, in the Cityville on 9th community.A federal Transportation Alternatives grant paid for the other three hubs, as well as two additional hubs and three standalone BCycle stations that will open later this year.The four existing hubs can be found at 30th and Carpenter, 24th Street and University Avenue, 19th Street and Cottage Grove Avenue and on SW 9th Street.A fifth hub is set to open on 17th Street, near Meredith Corporation, later this month. The sixth will be located at Ingersoll Avenue and 23rd Street, and is scheduled to open sometime this fall.These hubs are Des Moines' first multimodal transit stops, according to the press release. Continue Reading

Where do we go now? Workers increasingly struggle to afford metro Des Moines rents

Most mornings, Brett James rides the No. 17 bus from his east-side Des Moines apartment to his job as a line cook at the downtown Marriott Hotel.The 38-year-old would love to find a place closer — say, the new R&T Lofts next door to work at Seventh and Locust streets — to save him the hour-long commute each way.But James says he takes home a little over $1,200 a month, so there’s no way he can afford the $1,075 it would take to rent a one-bedroom.“I have no money for entertainment or anything extra. Every once in a while, I get a second job, but I just get tired,” the Bondurant native said. “It’s a good thing I work at a restaurant so I can eat there, or else all my money would be gone.”One of the best things about living in Des Moines used to be that renters could better afford housing than those making similar pay in other parts of the country.But talk to any number of people making $10 to $13 an hour around the metro, and you learn just how difficult it’s getting to find “affordable” housing. More: Blackbird's 33-story Des Moines tower will include affordable apartments More people nationally are renting — the most in at least 50 years, according to the Pew Research Center. So a lot of people are facing higher rents.But the creep upward in the Midwest’s fastest-growing city is steep — more than 15 percent in five years in Des Moines, data collected this summer by Zillow shows.The need for affordable housing is increasingly urgent for the one in five central Iowans who live in poverty.Polk and eastern Dallas counties are almost 8,000 units shy of meeting demand for single people making less than $15,000 annually, according to the Polk County Housing Trust Fund.“Our demand for affordable units is through the roof,” said Eric Burmeister, who heads the trust.Forty-four percent of residents in Polk and eastern Dallas counties are what you’d call Continue Reading

Major changes coming to Des Moines’ 7th & Grand project again

A downtown Des Moines project once imagined as towering apartment complex perched atop a parking garage has been scaled back again, this time separated into two shorter buildings.Nelson Construction & Development is gearing up to build the project, called Miesblock, at Seventh Street and Grand Avenue. The firm’s latest plans, presented to the city’s Urban Design Review Board Tuesday, call for a seven-story apartment complex, a three-story office and restaurant building and a “skywalk node.”The skywalk node — essentially stand-alone elevator shaft and staircase, providing a skywalk entrance in the project's plaza — will break ground this fall. Construction of the 19,200-square-foot commercial building is scheduled to begin by spring 2018, while the 80-unit apartment complex would break ground in spring 2019, according to officials from Nelson.Since first proposed by Nelson two years ago, plans for Miesblock have shrunk, shifted and even changed locations.Officials with the company said the new design is more viable because it divides the project into phases and keeps the buildings below the 80-foot threshold where costly high-rise building codes are enforced.“This is a project that will actually happen,” Alexander Grgurich, a development analyst with Nelson. “We will break ground this fall.”Grgurich said separating the commercial space and apartments will create a public plaza between the buildings and will give the housing a “more boutique” feel.“Instead of being a mixed-use building, we broke it into a mixed-use block,” he said.Few projects in Des Moines have endured more twists and turns. The saga of developing the property around Seventh and Grand goes back to 2013. December 2013: City leaders announce plans to demolish the aging parking garage that spans Seventh Street north of Grand Avenue and accept bids from private developers to replace it. February 2014: City Continue Reading

Des Moines cuts deal to prevent federal courthouse at the Riverfront YMCA site

The city of Des Moines has hatched a plan to thwart the federal government from building a courthouse at downtown’s Riverfront YMCA site — a property city officials say should be used for private development. On Monday, the City Council voted on a “put agreement,” which would obligate the city to buy the 2-acre property from Hubbell Realty Co. for $5.2 million if Hubbell chooses not to develop the land by May 31, 2018.In return, Hubbell has agreed to withdraw the property from consideration for the $137 million federal courthouse.The agreement essentially provides a safety net for Hubbell, encouraging the company to pursue a private development for the site, while forcing the federal government to look elsewhere for a courthouse site. The agreement was passed unanimously Monday, WHO TV reports. Hubbell’s latest plans for the site include a hotel, a condo development and possibly restaurant or retail space. CEO Rick Tollakson said he plans to have a project ready to break ground by spring 2018.“We don’t own property just to sit and speculate on it,” he said. “We buy property to develop it.”The agreement upends the federal government’s plan to build a new courthouse at the YMCA site, which sits on the west bank of the Des Moines River between Locust Street and Grand Avenue. PREVIOUSLY: Why the feds picked the Riverfront YMCA site for Des Moines' new courthouse Feds' new courthouse site 'a really, really big disappointment,' Des Moines leaders say 1 of these 4 Des Moines sites will host a new courthouse The Riverfront Y site was one of four downtown locations considered for the courthouse.The General Services Administration picked it over the objections of city leaders, who said they wanted to see a private project that would generate tax revenue and promote pedestrian activity Continue Reading

There’s new hope for developing Des Moines’ most notorious toxic site

It’s been called Des Moines’ worst eyesore, a “scab” on downtown and one of the city’s most polluted properties.  The Dico Inc. property, a closed manufacturing plant on the southwest side of downtown, has sat empty for two decades, attracting squatters and irking city leaders who want to see the highly visible property cleaned up, sold and redeveloped.Efforts to revitalize the Dico site have faced strong headwinds.Contaminated by chemical leaks and carcinogenic building materials, the 38-acre property is listed as a Superfund site — a federal designation reserved for the nation’s most toxic waste sites — and has been tied up in legal battles for years.But now, local officials say they have new reasons for optimism.Among them is the new Trump administration. New Environmental Protection Agency Director Scott Pruitt has made redeveloping Superfund sites a priority and has called for expediting cleanup efforts, cutting red tape and encouraging private development.And locally, a wave of real estate developments taking root just east of Dico — including a 75-acre neighborhood called Gray’s Station — is making the site more attractive to investors and its cleanup a high priority for federal regulators, city officials say.  “I have never felt more optimistic,” said Rita Conner, a Des Moines economic development coordinator, who has overseen the city’s efforts to revitalize the Dico site for nearly a decade.“The EPA is excited. The (Iowa Department of Natural Resources) is excited. The owner is engaged. There is literally nothing more that we can do at this point to get the right people together to find the right path.”City Council member Christine Hensley, whose ward includes the Dico site, said cleaning up the property is on her professional “bucket list.” Hensley is retiring in January after 24 years on the council.“I want to get Continue Reading

Corey Feldman postpones this weekend’s Des Moines concert

A concert featuring famed actor and musician Corey Feldman, previously scheduled for this Sunday, has been postponed to early 2018.Feldman, slated to appear at Wooly’s in Des Moines’ East Village alongside his touring group The Angels, is now set to appear Feb. 11, 2018 at the venue.A message on the Wooly’s Facebook page posted Friday said ticket buyers unable to attend the rescheduled date of the performance can seek a refund at the point of ticket purchase. All tickets are still valid, the post assured.The postponement comes in a week where Feldman said actor Jon Grissom allegedly molested him during his years as a child actor. The revelation from Feldman took place Thursday, as he appeared on “The Dr. Oz Show.” More: Corey Feldman identifies one of his molesters in interview with Dr. Oz Last week, Feldman launched a $10 million crowdfunding campaign in hopes of financing a documentary to “bring down, potentially, a pedophile ring.”Feldman confirmed Wednesday via Twitter that the tour would be put on hold.Feldman released his latest album, “Angelic 2 The Core,” in 2016. More information on the rescheduled show can be found at woolysdm.com. USA Today Network contributed to this article. Continue Reading

How a Des Moines radio host scored the ‘opportunity of a lifetime’ with Metallica

Andy Hall can flawlessly recall when he saw the word “Metallica” the first time.He was a 7-year-old in suburban Minneapolis when it happened on a school playground — as most memorable things did for kids in the mid-1980s. It was a humid, foggy day, he said.“Two teenage dudes walked through the mist,” he said. “One of the dudes looks over at me and says, ‘Hey man, wanna smoke?’ Of course, I’m a 7-year-old kid. I didn’t know what to say ... so I said, ‘No, thanks.’ He looked at me and goes, ‘All right, you don’t want to be cool.’He laughed, continuing: “As he walked away, (I see) he’s got a patch on his jean jacket and it’s ‘Metallica.’”Fast-forward three decades and Hall, now 38 years old and a 17-year veteran of Des Moines rock radio airwaves, scored the opportunity of a lifetime: travel to Metallica headquarters in San Rafael, California, last month to interview Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich as part of a nationally-syndicated radio special celebrating the upcoming “Master of Puppets” reissue box set.Hundreds of stations across North America, including Des Moines’ own Lazer 103.3, will have the opportunity to air the special. Lazer plans to run the interview during Hall’s afternoon shift, 2-7 p.m., on Nov. 9.“Everything I’ve done up to that point was in preparation for an opportunity like that,” he said. More: Here are the wild things that could happen when Foo Fighters play Des Moines In a roundabout way, Hall could give credit for the opportunity to the band's June 2017 tour stop at the Iowa Speedway in Netwon. The show was part of a fundraiser for The Native Fund, the Ashton Kutcher and Dallas Clark-led nonprofit.It was in promotion of this show that Hall created a three-part on-air Metallica special chronicling the history of the band. He coined it “In Continue Reading

Why Des Moines has Beggars’ Night

This story was originally published in October 2000.Detroit has Hell Night.Carbondale, Ill., used to have Fright Night.When it comes to bizarre local Halloween traditions, however, few communities can match the Des Moines metro area and its 60-plus-year-old ritual of - well, let's just call it Bad Joke Night.In most places, the Halloween tradition goes like this: The kid says, "Trick-or-treat." The homeowner gives him candy.In Des Moines and surrounding suburbs, it's more like this: The kid says, "Trick or treat." The homeowner says "What's your trick?" Then the kid tells a joke of the sort usually found on Bazooka gum wrappers. Why didn't the skeleton cross the road?Whether or not the homeowner is amused, the kid gets candy.There may be children elsewhere in the world who follow this unusual practice, but if so, anthropologist Ken Erickson has never run across them. Erickson directs the Center for Ethnographic Research at the University of Missouri.A mushroom walks into a bar. "You'll have to leave," the bartender says. "We don't allow mushrooms in here." "Why not?" asked the mushroom. "I'm a fungi." Pumpkin carving? More than 149 easy-to-print stencils to delight your kidsThe flash point came on Halloween in 1938 when Des Moines police answered a record 550 calls concerning vandalism. Krieg, along with the Community Chest' group work council, began a campaign to encourage less violent forms of Halloween fun.The next year, the group work council again promoted the Beggars' Night concept, this time as a way to aid the war effort. An article published in The Des Moines Register on Oct. 29, 1942, carried the headline "Kids! -Don't Help the Axis on Halloween" and included this poem encouraging proper behavior:"Soap and ticktacks are taboo,After the war, Krieg continued to issue annual bulletins in the Register laying still more Beggars' Night ground rules, including that children should stay in their own neighborhoods and that parents should turn on their Continue Reading

One person injured, multiple pets killed in Des Moines Wal-Mart parking lot RV fire

A man and woman escaped an RV fire in the parking lot of the Southeast 14th Wal-Mart, with one sustaining only minor injuries, according to the Des Moines Fire Department.At around 9 p.m., emergency officials received a call regarding a vehicle on fire, Des Moines Fire Captain Steve Beckett told the Register. When they arrived, firefighters found a recreational vehicle in the back of the parking lot fully engulfed.One person was transported to a local hospital with minor injuries. Four dogs and a cat were inside the RV as well. Fire officials were able to save one dog. Animal control was also on the scene.“I don’t think there’s any signs of life,” Beckett said about the mobile home.Fire officials believe the flames started when the pair were trying to start the engine of the 25-foot RV. The fire started in the front, near the engine, and then spread to the back.Wal-Mart stores have typically allowed people in RVs to stay in their parking lots, Beckett said. He said Des Moines emergency officials have responded to medical calls in the parking lot, but this is the first time he’s witnessed a fire. Continue Reading