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In Des Moines News

New skyscraper to provide affordable housing downtown

THE ABANDONED Kaleidoscope at the Hub mall, located along Walnut Street in downtown DSM, was demolished this past summer to make way for the new 33-story affordable housing apartment complex. graphic BY Meghan Holloran | photo editor

A new skyscraper project is underway at 515 Walnut St. in downtown Des Moines that will provide several apartment units at affordable rates. According to Deputy City Manager Matthew Anderson, the goal of this project is to continue to develop housing in the city available at a wide range of costs.

The skyscraper is currently projected to cost over $130 million and will hopefully be completed by 2026, Anderson said. It will be built on the lot of the former Kaleidoscope at the Hub mall. 

In line with current plans, the 33-story tower will hold roughly 390 apartment units of different sizes, said Whitney Baethke, the city’s economic development coordinator. Additionally, she said the Des Moines City Council requires a certain amount of affordable housing units in city-funded projects.

Baethke said the standard ask for projects like this is that 10% of units available in the new skyscraper must be affordable to people making only 80% of the city’s area median income, also known as median household income. The Department of Housing and Urban Development lists the median household income for the Des Moines-West Des Moines Metro Area at $105,600 for an averaged-sized family (four people). Currently, the skyscraper is exceeding its requirement, with 90 units set to be available at only 50% AMI, according to Baethke. 

Knowing that the demand for downtown housing is high, Anderson said the city’s goal is to keep options open to people of any socioeconomic status.  

“The entire metro is in need of affordable housing…we’re in need of housing and at every price point,” Anderson said.

Right now, Anderson said the city is in good balance when it comes to providing housing to its constituents, and they are working to provide housing to all demographics. Baethke said mixed-income housing is the best way to go about this. 

Anderson added that more housing downtown will hopefully draw in people who want to live near where they work, as well as people who want to live in the city but commute elsewhere.

“I think it will appeal to a broad range,” he said.

Anderson said this includes college students and recent college graduates.

For new college graduates, finding ideal city housing can be intimidating, said junior Amber Hussain. Hussain ideally wants to live downtown after college so she can be immersed in the city life.

“One thousand percent I would move into a skyscraper,” Hussain said.

Hussain thinks Des Moines is already much more affordable than other big cities in the United States, such as Chicago or Los Angeles, if rent stays on the lower end of the spectrum — as she wouldn’t want to have to dip into her savings right away to pay for downtown housing. She stated that her ideal monthly rent would be somewhere between $500 and $600.

“If I were going to have a chance at affordable housing, [Des Moines] would be it,” Hussain said.

She thinks the housing options that continue to pop up in downtown Des Moines show the area is a great place for young adults. This aligns with Anderson’s point that the city welcomes people of any age, demographic and socioeconomic status.

Although they cannot say for sure what rent will look like until the project is finished, Baethke and Anderson agree that this project will bring people of all socioeconomic statuses a “great opportunity” for downtown housing.

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