Des Moines Development Forum

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Development news, discussion and photographs in Downtown Des Moines.
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By Ingersoll1978
Terrible news. I will be the first to say will be giving my business to other department stores (especially Von Maur). The hometown feeling from Younkers is gone.

Downtown Younkers store will close in August, Saks announces


June 3, 2005
The downtown Des Moines Younkers store will close in mid-August, its owner announced today.

The 141,000-square-foot store has been located there for 106 years. Younkers’ parent company, Saks Inc., bought the building last month.

"This planned closing is consistent with our strategy of focusing our resources on our most productive locations," Michael R. MacDonald, chairman and chief executive officer of Carson Pirie Scott & Co., which includes Younkers, said in a statement.

"We remain very committed to the metropolitan Des Moines area, where we will continue to meet the needs of our customers in our new Jordan Creek store, along with our Valley West, Merle Hay, and Southridge locations."

In addition to the downtown Des Moines store, Younkers operates 19 locations throughout the state.

The Younkers Tea Room, located in the downtown store, will also close.

Younkers employs approximately 60 employees in the downtown Des Moines store and approximately 50 in the Tea Room, Saks said. The employees either will be offered transfer opportunities to other area stores or will receive appropriate severance packages, according to a news release.

Southern Realty Co., a partnership based in Illinois, sold the downtown landmark to Saks for about $5.2 million.

Younkers has been leasing space in the building at 713 Walnut St. since Southern Realty bought the property for $9 million in 1989. Younkers’ lease expires in August.

Future plans for the building are yet to be determined, Saks said.
User avatar
By mistertwister
This should come as no suprise to anyone. No need to disgruntled Ingersoll. Saks pulled the plug on the plaza in KC and in the Gavaide Common in MLPS and if those communities can't support department stores in their urban core, there's no way Des Moines could.

Don't think of this as a loss but as an opportunity. I doubt this building will sit empty for long.
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By dogbo
feared it was coming, but always held out hope. Put a pit in my stomach as soon as I read the headline. :cry:
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By DMRyan
I think it was inevitable at some point. It wasn't as if it was a profitable store, since it often received some kind of city subsidy to remain downtown.

It was nice for bragging rights to have a store like this downtown, and it was great for downtown workers on the skywalk to do some shopping, but this officially closes the chapter on downtown retail of this scale in DSM.

I'm still wondering why Saks would buy the building, only to turn around and sell it, and the entire Younker's division.
By Peachtree
The lease was up this year right? I would doubt that Sioux City's downtown Younkers survives either (even though the building isn't 20 years old). With JC Penney gone, their traffic has to be down by half since last year. I never thought Sioux City would have the LAST downtown Younkers store in Iowa. I guess soon I'll be hearing that Younkers/Macerich are going to exercise the zoning request they were granted to add 50,000sf onto the Southern Hills store any day now. One big MALL store like every other department chain in the country.
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By Ingersoll1978
The retail scene along Walnut has been dead for years. Do you guys think this affect the Kaleidoscope?
By Young DSM Social Club
Maybe I'm alone here, but I don't think this is that big of a deal. I already feel somewhat like it IS closed already, with the minimal amount of $$$ they've put into it.

This is a completely second rate store. Why would you shop there? If Saks had actually put some $$$ into making this a unique shopping destination --- like they did with Jordan Creek --- then I know I at least would shop there over other places in the metro.

Just the tea room alone is unique enough that SOMETHING better should be done with this place.

As someone who loves Downtown, we need places that WANT to be there -- not hanging on from 1950. Josephs has been downtown forever and it's still a viable store. Younkers could have been the same if the owners had made any effort.

I am excited for what's ahead in the future --- it's a beautiful building and a prime space. I suspect we'll ultimately end up with something far better than what we are losing b/c I think we really lost it along time ago.

I doubt Kaleidoscope will be affected --- it's all 9-5 shops anyway.
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By Ingersoll1978
The closing will probably help the Kaliedoscope and its merchants (which as some of you know, I wouldn't mind seeing that thing torn down and redeveloped).
By iadm
What happens with this sale to the "shared" steam heating system between the Younkers bldg. and Equitable Bldg.?
By Ankeny Husker Freak
It's surprising to me that with having 60,000-70,000 people working in downtown DSM that this store wasn't able to make a go of it IMO, city leaders have a long way to go if they ever want the downtown area to be an area were people would want to live.

You can put up all the $200,000 apartments,, you want, but if you don't have the services downtown, why would people want to live there?
User avatar
By DMRyan
The residents come before the services. Besides, this is DSM not Chicago. People have cars, people will drive to the Targets and Hy-Vee's to shop for the basics. Let's face it, this downtown living thing is just now catching on here. It takes time to build neighborhood type businesses up. Looking at how business has boomed over the last two years (mostly niche retail/entertainment), I'm not concerned...the developers putting these 15 or so downtown housing developments up must not be too worried either.
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By Ingersoll1978
This is more of a mental blow than anything. Riverpoint West (with the 400,000 square feet of commercial space) will probably help with the basics and more. Also, there are a lot of specialty businesses popping up in the East Village as well. Downtown will be ok. If Saks was really interested in the Downtown location succeeding, they would have done a lot more to improve the store.
By Young DSM Social Club
I will add that Younkers has also lost my business by closing this store.

Anybody have any idea how to send a letter to Saks letting them know I won't be frequenting any Younkers store any longer? (at least as much as possible --- realizing that if I am with someone else, I just may break down!).
User avatar
By dogbo
You can put up all the $200,000 apartments,, you want, but if you don't have the services downtown, why would people want to live there?

Honestly...I can't think of too many people who'd base their decision on whether or not to live downtown on whether or not there's access to a department store on the skywalk? There's reasons to morn the loss of Younkers, but I don't see a strong correlation IMO between those that desire to live downtown and the whether or not a department store is within walking distance.

Ankeny Husker Freak -- not to stir the pot (but I realize I am :) ), but someone challenged you on another thread about "settling" for Ankeny a/c wife and kids. You never answered this challenge or defended yourself . In this thread you throw out a line about downtown needing Younkers to support downtown housing. May I be so bold as to suggest you're a born suburbanite and would never consider living in Des Moines...let alone downtown? It seems to me your lack of input on ANY downtown thread suggests your interest and alliance lie elsewhere. Don't get me wrong...this isn't inherently bad to be Mr Suburban ! I have the utmost respect for Mr Twister and his W DSM choice of residence. But he's all over the downtown threads too (and support for projects).

OK....I'm picking on you. But it's not to be mean...but more to understand. For the most part, you've stayed silent to this point on anything downtown related. But now all of a sudden, you jump in on a negative thread. Pls help me understand why downtown or Des Moines proper doesn't seem to garner more of your direct support. Learning the answers to these questions might help all of us big DSM supportors better understand the challenges the city we love face...and how we can convert others to our way of thinking!
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By DMRyan
A few Register articles/editorials about the closing. It's defintely a loss, but the downtown movers and shakers appear to be pretty optomistic about what lies ahead for the property, including the possible mention of another format of department store that only sells mens and womens apparel. Still the question remains of why Saks purchased the building, then deceided to close the store.

Surprised to see that the store was indeed profitable, even if sales were well below average. We have a local real estate magnet, the assistant city manager, the Downtown Community Alliance and the Greater DSM Partnership all saying encourging things about what may lie ahead.

The editorials are defintely worth a read

D.M to lose downtown icon


June 4, 2005

Younkers department store will close in August after more than 100 years in downtown Des Moines, concluding a downward decline that began decades ago.

Friday's announcement, which also included closing the Younkers Tea Room, saddened longtime customers who remembered the Younkers store and restaurant as part of a shopping tradition that spanned generations.

"I've been coming here for a long time," said Tiarra Williams of Des Moines, who works at Wells Fargo Financial. "My grandma used to bring me here."

Des Moines leaders said that the store closing is regrettable, but that it creates an opportunity for "more sustainable" development.

Advocates see smaller retail, housing and office space being developed in the 230,000 square feet that make up the building.

"If there was a time for this kind of setback, now is that time," said Susan Ramsey, a spokeswoman for the Greater Des Moines Partnership, who pointed to booming downtown development, including housing, recreation and business growth.

Among the projects: the $57 million Principal Riverwalk and Wells Fargo's $90 million expansion across from the Younkers building.

"I'm optimistic that developers are going to recognize the opportunity . . . and move quickly," Ramsey said.

Saks Inc., the Birmingham, Ala.-based owner of Younkers, said Friday that plans for the building and the store's final date are "yet to be determined." Saks purchased the building in May for $5.2 million from Illinois-based Southern Realty Co. The retailer is working with a Chicago real estate development company to determine the building's future.

Kerty Levy, president of the Downtown Community Alliance, calls the building an "architectural gem."

The retail chain was started by two brothers - Samuel and Herman Younker - who opened their first store in Des Moines in 1874 and the downtown store at Seventh and Walnut streets in 1899.

"It's an emotional loss, but it's a huge opportunity as well," Levy said. "Its location downtown is phenomenal. There's just so much potential there."

Saks Inc. said Friday that closing the downtown store is part of its "strategy of focusing our resources on our most productive locations." The 110 downtown employees will either be transferred to one of Younkers' four other Des Moines area locations or be fired and given severance packages.

George Myers, senior vice president of stores for Carson Pirie Scott, a division of Saks, said the downtown Younkers' sales were the lowest of all the Des Moines-area stores.

Experts said Saks is cutting low-performing stores so it can sell its northern department store group, of which Younkers is a member. Carson Pirie Scott, Bergner's, Boston Store and Herberger's also are part of the group.

Saks recently sold its Proffitt's and McRae's department stores to Belk Inc. for $622 million.

Saks and other chains are shedding department stores because sales are being "clobbered" by discounters, such as Wal-Mart and Target, and luxury stores on the other end, said Ken Stone, a retired Iowa State University retail economist.

The Des Moines metro area's department store sales dropped 11.1 percent for the period from February through April, compared with the same period last year, according to a report from the International Council of Shopping Centers. That made Des Moines the worst-performing metro area in the nation.

The figures include only sales at stores that have been open for 13 months or more - not the department stores that opened at Jordan Creek Town Center in West Des Moines or elsewhere.

"The stores that aren't high-producing are probably going to be closing up," Stone said.

Myers said it's unlikely any other Younkers stores will close soon, he said. The company closed stores in Iowa City and Omaha earlier this year.

The challenge for department stores in downtown areas is even greater, with shorter operating hours and more complicated traffic and parking.

Being downtown worked against the Younkers store, Myers said. Downtown stores have a limited customer base and generally aren't open nights and Sun- days.

"And for a normal department store that means losing prime selling time," he said. The downtown Younkers store was "really only busy 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. during the week."

In addition, Des Moines has seen an eruption of retail space enter the market during the past couple of years. Jordan Creek mall in West Des Moines opened in August with 1 million square feet. Also, "big box" retailers - Costco, DSW Shoe Warehouse, Lowe's and others - built about 750,000 square feet last year, much of it around the new mall.

"The whole movement of retail to the suburbs has ripped the downtown retail picture," said Stone, who noted that many cities are trying to lure major retailers to downtown "with limited success."

Kay Palan, an associate professor of marketing at Iowa State University, said consumers these days want "a variety of choices" from a variety of stores. Dense retail areas in cities such as Chicago or Minneapolis provide choices, as do malls.

"If a downtown isn't thriving, it's very hard for a department store to make it," Palan said. "It's my perception that the downtown Younkers has been suffering for years."

Rick Clark, the Des Moines assistant city manager, said the city has been working for years to keep the Younkers store open. In 1993, Younkers received $450,000 in forgivable loans from the city and a development group and the city agreed to buy the downtown Younkers warehouse in exchange for a 10-year commitment to downtown Des Moines.

"It's not a surprise that it's closing," said Clark, who added that Saks hasn't invested significantly in upgrading the store - or its merchandise - to make it appealing to consumers, especially younger residents moving downtown.

He said the fate of the Younkers downtown store was cast in 2002 when the retailer decided to move its corporate operations. "It was a huge blow. . . . It really did have an impact on the viability of that store."

Myers said about 50 Carson division employees will maintain offices in the building after the store closes.

Clark said he hopes a future developer will create retail space in the building, even if it's less than Younkers' 141,000 square feet. He said he believed a new retailer could succeed.

Crawford: Time wore away store's luster


June 4, 2005

Sisters Jeannette and Eleanore Neumann remember meeting their dad for lunch at the Younkers Tea Room and shopping with their mom at the flagship downtown store with its big windows and shiny "Electric Stairs."

"It was a special place to go shopping," Jeannette said.

That was 10 years ago. That was old Des Moines.

Now the women are in their early 20s, and they're spending the afternoon in the city's new retail hot spot - the East Village. After meeting their father for lunch at Basil Prosperi on East Fifth Street, they stroll over to Schaffer's 504 to browse.

Younkers' downtown store may be closing, but that doesn't stop Jeannette Neumann from calling this an "exciting time" in Des Moines. Look around the East Village. There's art. A place to drink tea. An eclectic clothing boutique.

"It's the fun new place," she said. "You feel like you discovered something."

I always felt as if I discovered something when I went to the Younkers downtown, but it was a bit sad. It was the store time forgot.

At one time, Younkers must have drawn busy shoppers off the street, but these days, the only people on the sidewalk seem to be waiting for buses. Bystanders don't see a lot of terrific urban attractions around it.

The department store shut down every weekday at 5:30 p.m., just when people got off work and could spend their time shopping. Saturdays, it was about the only thing open in the skywalks, and practically deserted.

Younkers moved its most impressive fashion and accessory items across town years ago to its upscale West Des Moines quarters. The once-prestigious downtown showpiece hasn't been an exciting or glamorous place to shop in a long, long time.

That's why it's hard to get worked up about its departure. Talk to 20-somethings who missed the glory days, and I'll get an "Aww, that's too bad. Have you heard about the new restaurant in the East Village?"

(It's a swanky little bistro and bar called the Continental.)

Ben Washburn, 26, a professional who lives at Brown Camp Lofts with his wife, Alicia, sometimes dropped by the downtown Younkers for good tie sales. He calls it a loss, but only because he liked the convenient downtown location.

"The benefit of Younkers was I could walk by, see a tie and buy it," he said.

The future of Des Moines is in "small business," Washburn has decided. "It seems like (Younkers) was the only (retail), and that's probably why it faded. You have to have more."

Right now, the action is in the East Village. Jennifer Hansen used to work at Younkers downtown. She watched the company shift its emphasis from downtown to the Valley West store after she moved to town in 1993. Now she owns Eden, an elegant shop full of soaps and perfumes and home-fragrance items in the village.

To her, the stately old building at Seventh and Walnut would be the perfect place for small-scale retail - a cosmopolitan galleria, perhaps.

"I don't think a department store will come" to fill the space, she said. "There's a definite need for more boutiques."

Jeannette Neumann suggested that it might be a good space for a bookstore, with a nice cafe and coffee shop. Maybe Borders.

I spent a weekend in May in Seattle, which has a healthy downtown, chock full of ritzy retail stores: Louis Vuitton. Betsy Smith. Urban Outfitters. In larger cities, professionals who shop downtown expect that kind of "wow" factor.

For Des Moines' downtown workers, save for a few isolated stores sprinkled throughout the metro area, it's a half-hour drive to Jordan Creek to be wowed.

Whatever replaces Younkers has a lesson to learn from the former tenant: No store is an island, not even an aging institution. Especially not an institution that gave up a long time ago trying to impress a metro population that is increasingly cosmopolitan and has seen its shopping options increase exponentially elsewhere.

Young people are confident we'll figure it out.

"Once more residents (move downtown), you'll see more need for that retail," Washburn said.

With all the condo construction, pessimism about downtown just seems dated.

Elbert: With downtown's renaissance, why close now?

June 4, 2005

The decision by Saks Inc. to close the downtown Younkers store was inevitable, although the timing is somewhat ironic and sure to disappoint downtown workers.

Downtown department stores have been pulling out of central cities for more than three decades. Des Moines managed to keep one longer than most cities of similar size, and for that we should all be happy.

A lot of local people bent over backward during the past 15 to 20 years to keep open the store, which is nearly 106 years old. The city and others gave Younkers a big incentive package in 1993. Managers did their part by keeping the store profitable by shrinking inventory and staffing from eight floors to three.

The timing of Friday's announcement is ironic in that the owners kept the store open for many years when the future of downtown was uncertain. Now, for the first time in decades, the future of downtown seems all but assured with housing and retail making comebacks.

If Younkers could weather all the bad years, why pull out now when things look brighter than they have at any time since I moved here in 1975?

It's a tough question to answer with any degree of certainty at a time when the leadership at Younkers' parent, Saks, is in turmoil.

The company recently fired three top executives after they were accused of shaking down vendors for more than $20 million. To put it delicately, the company's credibility isn't the best right now.

Saks recently sold the company's southern division of department stores, and it wants to sell the northern division, which includes Younkers. Given the civil fraud charges that Saks faces from vendors in a New York court, it's a safe bet that any sale of the northern division will be carefully scrutinized and is likely to be delayed for a while.

In the meantime, one thing that Saks can do is clean up Younkers and the other properties that it wants to put up for sale.

Real estate experts say that while the downtown Des Moines store is profitable, it is probably off-putting to buyers because it's an odd duck. It's not in a mall, it's not open on Sundays, and its sales are well below average.

Also, the store had an odd lease arrangement that stemmed from the store not having its own heating and cooling equipment. The downtown store buys those services from the Partnership Building, which is on the north side of the same block as Younkers.

That arrangement has been in effect ever since the Partnership Building, formerly Locust Mall, was built in 1985. As a result, the lease that Younkers signed 15 years ago with an investment group that owns the building required Younkers to install heating and cooling equipment if the retailer ever moved out.

Younkers' lease was due to expire in August and would have triggered the requirement for installation of heating and cooling equipment, if no new lease was signed.

Given the age and size of the downtown store, it would have cost millions of dollars to do that, according to officials familiar with the situation.

Rather than sign a new lease, Younkers' parent company decided to buy the building for $5.2 million last month.

The purchase gives the company more flexibility, and is probably cheaper in the long run for Saks, according to downtown leaders familiar with the arrangement.

So what happens now with the building?

Saks isn't saying.

There's a chance, downtown experts said, that Saks could move one of its other retail chains into some of the Younkers space.

It makes sense, they said, because the one thing the downtown store does well is sell women's and men's apparel.

The store also sells kitchen, dining and bedroom furnishings, along with children's apparel. But downtown office workers shopping on their lunch hours for women's and men's apparel have kept the store afloat, the experts said.

The Younkers building is in too good of shape, and the property is too valuable to allow it to sit empty, said Jim Hubbell of Hubbell Realty.

It makes sense to continue to use the first and second floors for retail, Hubbell and others said.

A private health club is another possible use, Hubbell said.

The upper floors could be developed as luxury housing or office space or both, Hubbell said.

Older downtown office buildings typically have small floor plans that don't lend themselves to modern office layouts. But Younkers has large, open floor plans, Hubbell said.

An example of a similar conversion, he said, is the former downtown J.C. Penney store. After Penney moved out, it was converted to office space for employees of health insurer Wellmark in 1996.

"It's a great building and a wonderful location" in the heart of the downtown financial district, Hubbell said of the Younkers building.

"I know it's sad to see Younkers go, but this is not necessarily as bad as people might assume," he said.

He's right. It was inevitable that Younkers would close at some point.

It's better that Younkers close now when so many other positive things are happening. A few years ago, the downtown was more fragile. Losing Younkers would have been a much bigger blow.
Last edited by DMRyan on Sat Jun 04, 2005 10:50 am, edited 1 time in total.
User avatar
Still the question remains of why Saks purchased the building, then deceided to close the store.

The answer is in the last article you posted.
Also, the store had an odd lease arrangement that stemmed from the store not having its own heating and cooling equipment. The downtown store buys those services from the Partnership Building, which is on the north side of the same block as Younkers.

That arrangement has been in effect ever since the Partnership Building, formerly Locust Mall, was built in 1985. As a result, the lease that Younkers signed 15 years ago with an investment group that owns the building required Younkers to install heating and cooling equipment if the retailer ever moved out.

Younkers' lease was due to expire in August and would have triggered the requirement for installation of heating and cooling equipment, if no new lease was signed.

Given the age and size of the downtown store, it would have cost millions of dollars to do that, according to officials familiar with the situation.

Rather than sign a new lease, Younkers' parent company decided to buy the building for $5.2 million last month.

The purchase gives the company more flexibility, and is probably cheaper in the long run for Saks, according to downtown leaders familiar with the arrangement.
User avatar
By Lost Planet
I don't see this as bad news at all. Younkers has been the dominant department store chain in Iowa for 100 years. It just doesn't excite people. I think it's great that downtown residents and workers can look forward to a new mixed use project that could bring new or unique retail and housing. It's also good that a Chicago real estate firm is in on this instead of locals. I think the more new projects and businesses downtown the better.
User avatar
By DMRyan
The building has already potentially lured a developer. Things sound very far from final, but at least there is interest in the property very early in the process.

Elbert: Chicago developer could breathe new life into Younkers building

June 12, 2005

I have good news and bad news. The good news: Chicago-area developer Joseph Freed and Associates is talking with Younkers' parent Saks Inc. about redeveloping the downtown Younkers store as a mixed-use property that could involve retail, office and housing.

Freed is a well-regarded developer, whose signature redevelopment project is a $69 million rehabilitation of downtown Chicago's historic Carson Pirie Scott department store building on State Street.

The building is now called the Sullivan Center, in honor of architect Louis Sullivan, who designed it in the 1890s. The project is just now being completed, 10 years after the department store first hired Freed to develop innovative ideas for the half-empty, 1 million- square-foot building.

If you're looking for the bad news, you just heard it: 10 years.

Historic redevelopment can take time, a lot of it, depending on the project.

Presumably, redeveloping the 288,000-square-foot downtown Des Moines Younkers store won't take anywhere near that long, but no one ever knows at the outset.

Saks announced a week ago that it will close the downtown Younkers store in mid-August. Freed officials have been looking at the Younkers site for a couple of months now and won't say anything about their plans.

Des Moines architect Kirk Blunck, who has been working with Freed, says the building is structurally sound and worth saving.

More about that in a minute. First, let's look at what Freed did in Chicago and why it took so long.

A story from the Chicago Sun-Times indicates some of the delay was attributable to department store executives, who were slow to commit to the project. Not much happened between 1995, when Freed was hired, and 1998, when a formal plan for redeveloping the Carson store was announced.

The 1998 plan called for Freed to buy the giant store and lease retail space back to Carson.

Following the announcement, financing and other details had to be worked out, and it was nearly three more years before the project was formally launched in 2001.

At that point, newspaper stories reported that Freed would pay $19 million for the property and spend another $50 million on redeveloping the space.

Financing for the project included $14 million of tax-increment financing from the city of Chicago, $9 million in federal historic tax credits and $31 million of bank loans. Freed and a partner put $15 million into the project, according to stories from the Chicago Tribune.

In addition, Carson agreed to spend $17 million on improvements to 620,000 square feet of space that it agreed to lease for 20 years.

Saks, the same company that owns Younkers, owns Carson. Saks executives oversaw the planning for much of the Chicago project.

That doesn't mean the downtown Younkers project will be a mirror of the Sullivan Center effort, but it does mean that the Saks and Freed officials know each other well by now.

The situations in Des Moines and Chicago are quite different. Saks is having financial problems today that were not apparent in 2001 when the Carson store deal was signed.

Saks has said it hopes to sell the Younkers chain of 48 department stores, as well as the Carson chain of 30 stores, if it can find a buyer.

The key for Des Moines will be whether Freed comes up with a workable plan for the Younkers building.

A lot of development has taken place in downtown Des Moines in recent years. Much of it has been within blocks of the Younkers building. Some of it has even been directly across the street from Younkers.

New buildings in recent years by EMC Insurance, Wells Fargo Financial and Allied Insurance make the Younkers property more valuable as retail space, as office space and as residential space.

Blunck said Freed is looking at all three uses as possibilities for the Younkers building.

The developer also wants to know whether it can build on top of the Younkers' building, which is really two buildings.

The east half of the store was built in 1899, and added onto later. The west half was built in 1908.

The entire half block that comprises the Younkers store on Walnut Street between Seventh and Eighth streets has been remodeled and reconfigured several times during the past century.

The main structure of the 1899 building is cast iron, Blunck said. The main structure of the 1908 building is cast concrete.

Both are solid structures, Blunck said. If additional stories are to be added, he said, the logical place to make the addition is on the west half of the building, which is six stories high, one story shorter than the 1899 building.

The concrete structure of the 1908 building is capable of holding at least one more story of height, Blunck said. Engineers were hired last week to determine whether a second additional story is feasible, he said.

That both the 1899 and the 1908 buildings have been remodeled so often means that they should be in good shape and reasonably up-to-date in terms of building-code issues, said Tom Leslie, an assistant professor of architecture at Iowa State University.

When redevelopers look at older buildings, like the Younkers store, Leslie said, they typically have three concerns.

One is the structure. Cast-iron and cast-concrete structures are capable of standing up well over time, provided they are well maintained, he said.

The next thing a redeveloper will look at is the exterior walls, windows and roof - to see whether any water damage or leakage has occurred - and interior walls, Leslie said.

If the exterior has been renovated in the past 25 years, as is the case with the Younkers store, "you should be fine," Leslie said.

The third thing, he said, is the condition of the electrical, mechanical and plumbing systems. That's not likely to be much of a concern with the Younkers building, he said, because changing the use to office or housing space would result in most of the systems being removed and rebuilt.

Leslie's final piece of advice is that delays are inevitable on projects that involve 100-year-old buildings.

That's as it should be, he said. "The building is going to be very complicated. There is over 100 years of stuff that has been retrofitted. It takes a long time to figure out exactly what all the issues are."

While delays may be frustrating, he said, a key part of the process is stewardship and forcing "architects and developers to think about how best to bring the old and new together."

When the result is a project like Chicago's Sullivan Center, Leslie said, it is worth the wait.
By iadm
So what are they going to do with the heat system that is based in the Equitable Building now under separate ownership?

Having to install a whole new system in the Younkers complex (which I think is actually 2 or 3 different buildings that have been joined together) will be pricey but may be necessary because of the age of the boiler steam system - about about 100 yrs. old - and the changed ownerships.
User avatar
By Des Moineser
I suspect Knapp's going to change Equitable's heating system to something easier to maintain.
User avatar
By DMRyan
In one of the Register articles above, there was mention of a shared heating/cooling system with the Partnership Building, but no mention of the Equitable Building.

At any rate, updating the mechanical system of the Younkers Buildings will probably be one of the bigger expenses of the entire rehab project.
By Peachtree
I found a pic of the old Younkers store in downtown Sioux City before it was torn down and replaced. Magnificent old bastard, place was fun to shop. Had the old style brass elevators (with attendants!), secret stairways, the Peacock Room Restaurant, a large candy stand, revolving doors and the big corner window on 4th & Pierce was taken out from Thanksgiving to Christmas so that kids could climb the stairs and take pics with Santa. Sad to see places like this go.

User avatar
By DMRyan
A Register article about what other cities have done to convert their closed downtown department stores. I like how the writer assumes this is a new phenomenon for Des Moines. Wasn't it as early as the 1990's that Montgomery Wards left their downtown department store at 5th and Walnut? Sears, Kresge, etc. have all pulled out of downtown Des Moines years ago.

Nonetheless, you can read what Iowa City, Davenport, Cedar Rapids, and Omaha are doing/have done with their old downtown department stores.

What will happen with old Younkers?

Some cities find success reviving downtown sites

August 13, 2005

Des Moines leaders say they believe they can revive the now-empty Younkers downtown space, just as other Iowa and Midwest cities have converted former department stores into museums, offices and retail shops.

Younkers' parent company, Saks Inc., bought the 106-year-old building in May for $5.2 million and is working with a development company to determine the future of the 230,000-square-foot structure. The store closed Friday.

Saks has put Younkers and four other department store divisions it owns up for sale, further muddying the timetable.

Increased development downtown makes the Younkers building an attractive site, officials have said. Finding the right plan to transform the former department store is the challenge.

Several groups have toured the building, said Tim Leach, vice president of economic development for the Downtown Community Alliance.

"Everybody is looking forward to seeing what will happen with the building," Leach said. "It would be great to turn this store-closing into some sweet lemonade."

Cities have had little success luring big retailers to return downtown, but they have found success in other ways - although in some cases, it has taken several years.

In Davenport , the $13.2 million River Music Experience opened last year in a building that once housed the flagship store for Iowa-based department store chain Von Maur. River Music Experience includes a museum, live performance center, coffee shop and eventually classroom space.

Von Maur, then known as Petersen Harned von Maur, closed the store in 1986, sold the building and moved to a nearby shopping mall.

"Everybody has memories of the store," said Dan Huber, president of DavenportOne, the city's chamber of commerce and downtown redevelopment organization. "There was the Tea Room in the basement and Christmas displays in the windows. There was a lot of nostalgia related to the building."

More recently known as the Redstone Building, the four-story landmark was empty for much of the following 18 years.

"Some in the community thought it should be taken down," Huber said. "We got to it just in time."

Through a collaborative effort among private, state and local groups, the building was renovated. The River Music Experience moved into the basement, first and second floors. The top two floors are private office space for another company. Centro, a restaurant whose first location was in Des Moines, occupies part of the first floor.

Cedar Rapids was dealt a double blow after two of its downtown department stores folded. Armstrong's left in 1991 and Killians department store, about 10 years earlier. The telecom boom in the mid-1990s brought several businesses downtown searching for space, said Jamie Licko, executive director of the Cedar Rapids Downtown District.

"Those buildings turned into office space with some retail," she said.

When the telecom industry fizzled about five years ago, "downtown lost a lot of tenants," Licko said. Slowly, the buildings have begun to fill again.

"It's mostly small retail like boutiques, jewelers, hair salons and some coffee shops," she said. Office space is taking up most of the buildings.

Most downtowns can't rely on retail to be a major player, Licko said. When the Brandeis department store, which Younkers bought in 1987, closed in downtown Omaha in the late 1980s, Union Pacific Railroad took over most of the space for offices, said Bob Hampton, chief executive of Hampton Development Services in Lincoln, Neb.

Union Pacific vacated the Brandeis building in June 2004 when it moved into its new downtown high-rise office building. Hampton bought it in January with plans to create 150 condominiums on the upper seven floors and retail and restaurants on the first two floors.

The $70 million project should be completed in the next four years, Hampton said.

One of the latest casualties is the Younkers store in Old Capitol Mall in Iowa City. Younkers closed the store at the end of January.

The mall's owners, O.C. Group, initially toyed with developing housing in the building but abandoned those plans when the University of Iowa offered to buy the space for classrooms and offices.

"We're happy with how things have gone," said Kevin Dingman, a mall co-owner and manager.

Old Capitol owners also have redeveloped the former J.C. Penney Co. Inc. store in the mall. The 25,000-square-foot store was divided into five spaces the mall has leased, Dingman said.

Des Moines' Younkers has a much bigger space. But other vacant downtown buildings have been successfully transformed, including the Masonic Temple, the Homestead Building and the Brown Camp Lofts, Leach noted.

Real estate developer Joseph Freed and Associates of Palatine, Ill., have been working with Saks on uses for the Younkers building, which could include any combination of retail, office and residential space.

The building's historical significance and architectural features make it a must to preserve, said Rick Clark, assistant city manager.

"There is huge support to do something with this building," he said.
By icia
JC Penney used to be downtown Des Moines. I think it was converted to office space for Wellmark or something. Also, this is a minor detail, but the reporter said that von Maur left downtown Davenport to open a store in a nearby mall, which is not true. There had been stores in NorthPark, SouthPark and Duck Creek for years.
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By dmluvr
You guys---it's the reggie---you can't really be surprised.

Food for thought--some of these artices are written/co writen by their people out in their ganett offices out in DC.
Not kidding.

I remember emailing them about the dmmc article a month ago and the gal said that she is stationed out in dc.
User avatar
By Philby
Not a lot of information here - but it looks like there is a proposal in the works to convert this building to Condos and Retail. (can i just make a side note that I'm thrilled they're calling it condos and not lofts! there's so few lofts in des moines, yet every development has it in the name....some of these are just flats or condos people!)

DM Register wrote:
Younkers plan includes retail space, condos

March 15, 2006

Des Moines city leaders next week will pitch a Chicago developer's $40 million plan to transform the former Younkers department store into downtown condominiums and retail space.

Joseph Freed and Associates would purchase the building under the plan and turn the first two floors into retail space and the upper floors into 110 condos.

City taxpayers would contribute $2 million to get the project under way if the City Council approves. The building, at the corner of Eight and Walnut streets, has been vacant since August, after Saks Inc. closed the store, which was a Des Moines icon for more than 100 years.

City advocates said the store's demise was a huge loss, particularly as the city has begun to gain traction in downtown development.

"It is centrally located and there's a sense, an emotion, about the building that marks it as a special place," City Manager Rick Clark said.