Des Moines Development Forum

Discussing Iowa's urban landscape since 2004!

Development news, discussion and photographs outside of Downtown Des Moines.
User avatar
By Cyclonefan
Lost Planet wrote:How many freaking parks does Beaverdale need, anyway? Beaverdale Park & Ashby Park are mere blocks away from the Rice site. There's also Witmer Park, Tower Park, and several schools with green space. The Rice site is a featureless field that hardly gets any use by kids unless they're on a soccer team. I guess NIMBYs are unavoidable in nearly any development.

I agree that I dont see many people using that park. Are there any other soccer fields in the area?
User avatar
By DMRyan
I'm sure the lawsuits will be flying before this is settled, and that could affect the start date of the project.

Some of the conditions of rezoning approval were to dictate the type of businesses in the development, the amount and type of signage, a study on traffic calming in the area, building materials that are predominantly masonry, and additional screening of parking lots, among others.

I'm waiting for some more detailed renderings to be shown, other than the commonly seen Google Sketch-Up models that have been used so far.

User avatar
By Hyzer
Cyclonefan wrote:
Lost Planet wrote:...Are there any other soccer fields in the area?

There are soccer fields at the Tower Park on Hickman & 50th, the Des Moines Parks website doesn't list it under the amenities though. I've seen several flagfootball and soccer games/practices, more so than at Rice.
User avatar
By speeder
I live about a block from Tower Park and there are several playing fields here, one of which is a soccer field that get regular use. There is room for more, especially for impromptu games, if rice school teams are looking for another open practice area. Additionally, there is tons of parking if the park lot gets full, in the church lot just to the south of the park.
By philroeder
Also, the School District, the City and the County all pitched in to develop new recreation facilities at Hoover High School, including a new soccer field that will be used by the youth soccer club that was playing on the Rice Field.
User avatar
By speeder
Group Takes Rice Land Sale To Court
Group Alleges School Board Violated Law 4/27/2007

DES MOINES, Iowa -- Debate over the development of the former Rice Elementary School in Des Moines moved into a courtroom Friday morning.

The Des Moines School Board in January voted in favor of an $11 million plan to build homes and commercial space on the Beaverdale site.

A group called Save the Green is taking the school board to court. The group alleges the board violated Iowa law because the board made its decision to sell the site before hearing public input.

Polk County judge Robert Hanson will issue a written judgment.

The public input was heard through 'The Beaverdale Plan' process. Shut up already. I don't ever once want to hear one of those ****ing Save the Green people complain about the school district not having enough money, part of the reason is because of stupid lawsuits like this. If I was the judge I would throw out the case and tell them to go the hell home and mow the green space on their front lawns , they at least own that.
User avatar
By Better Life dude
From the Register's web site:
Developer revises plans for Beaverdale project

May 29, 2007

Revised development plans for the former Rice Elementary School property show efforts to reduce the visual scale of the residential and commercial project by swapping townhouses for row houses and preserving at least two mature trees on the site.

The plans will be unveiled at a community meeting Wednesday evening in the Armory Building.

“The process has given us the opportunity to sit down with the community and come up with a better development plan,” said Rich Clark, one of the partners in Rice Development Partners, the group planning to build on the Rice property.

The Wednesday meeting is the second of two required by the Des Moines City Council as a condition for its approval of the conceptual plans and rezoning of the roughly 4 acres at the corner of Beaver and Adams avenues.

Clark said of the major concerns that came out of the first meeting were tree preservation, open space and storm water management.

The trees that would be saved include a pin oak at the corner of Beaver and Adams and a black cherry tree on Adams. Rice Partners will try to preserve a cluster of three trees at the northeast corner of the site. But sewer improvements will have to go through that area and the developer may not be able to save those trees.

The revised plans will have more green space. The water detention area will be a large green space in the middle of the development. Storm water on the site will drain into the grassy area where it will be held as it is released into sewer lines need to be built.

The meeting is at 6 p.m. in the St. Etienne Conference Room of the Armory Building, 602 Robert D. Ray Drive.

Here's the link:
User avatar
By DMRyan
The project is getting a little less dense if they're "swapping townhouses for rowhouses" now. That was one of the coolest things on the orginal rendition of the project, IMO.
User avatar
By Better Life dude
The Save the Green people are never going to be happy with anything about this project. Seems like the developers are listening to them though and are willing to meet them half way on a couple points. I like the quote by the guy who still wants a volley ball court and playground to be kept -along with all the trees.

Is the lawsuit still on for this project? If so, that would give the Save the Green people a bit of continuing leverage on the developer to keep asking for what they want.

Rice plan draws criticism, requests
Neighbors of the project express concerns at a meeting with developers, who pledge to consider changes.

May 31, 2007

A wide-ranging discussion Wednesday night on the revised development plans for Rice Field drew some compliments, some criticism and a pledge from the developers to consider further adjustments to the buildings proposed for the site.

But the density - which has been a top complaint of residents - of the $11 million residential and commercial construction project on the site of the former Rice Elementary School won't change. Des Moines Community Development Director Larry Hulse said the zoning and density were set in March when the City Council approved the conceptual development plans from Rice Development Partners.

"The zoning may be done, but I don't think you're done with your alterations," resident Joann Thorup said. "I think you have more leeway."

The meeting in the Armory Building was the second of two with neighbors required by the council as a condition for the project's approval.

Also, the final plan must return to the council. Typically, final approval would be made internally by city staff.

The plans show buildings that would be predominantly brick, with designs intended to break up the scale of the project as seen from the neighborhood - changes welcomed by most Beaverdale residents.

But neighbors of the site still say they want the developers to lessen the presence of buildings, particularly those in view of neighboring homes. Several residents asked that the commercial building proposed for Adams Avenue be set back farther from the street.

Resident Karl Dow also said neighbors don't want the three-unit townhome building on the northeast corner of the site. He said they would prefer to keep the existing playground and volleyball court and as many trees as possible. Dow said the developers have not made any substantial adjustments that respect the neighbors' views.

Rich Clark of Rice Partners said moving the commercial building could pose problems because of the drop in grade on the property, but he said developers would look into that as well as into making changes to the buildings on the northeast corner.

"If we think it's something that provides value to this plan, it's something we'll take to the city," Clark said.

The revised plan does save more trees.

Two trees at Beaver and Adams avenues would be saved, including a memorial tree for former Rice Principal Ferne Thorne. Also, a black cherry tree on Adams Avenue would be spared.

Even with the installation of a new sewer line from the detention pond through the northeast corner of the property, Clark said engineers have determined that two trees, and possibly a third, in that area can be saved.

Reporter Frank Vinluan can be reached at (515) 284-8211 or
User avatar
By speeder
The developer should strike a bargain with the Save The Green idiots, for every tree saved, 5 planned trees will not be planted. And who the hell plays volleyball outside a gym or a club sand court?? These people are just nitpicky, bitter and dumb and the developer should ignore them from this point on... BetterLifeDude is right, they will never be happy because they lost and they probably feel like they were wronged and just won't let it go.
User avatar
By Ex-Chicago
speeder wrote:And who the hell plays volleyball outside a gym or a club sand court??

I play at that court (Rice Field) once a week. It's a very informal deal...whoever shows up split into two teams and we go 'til the sun goes down. There's probably 10-15 people who play on a regular basis, although the guy quoted in the article isn't one of them.
User avatar
By DMRyan
I actually had that backwards. Based on the rendering in the Register, there are more brownstones now and less townhomes.

The dissenting public will not be happy with any proposed development at this site I'm sure. It sounds like the developer is stuck at proposing the same number of commercial units and the same amount of commercial space to turn a profit, and it doesn't seem like they'll be much waivering from this unless the city council requires that the development have a less dense development pattern.
User avatar
By Better Life dude
Here's the latest from the Rice project. Sounds like the plan continues to move forward - much to the dismay of the lady who's glass dolphin figurine has broken due to vibration from passing street traffic. :wink:

From the Register:
Tax dollars could pay for Rice project
Beaverdale residents say plan will only increase traffic, raise developer's profit


September 21, 2007
Tensions were already high, yelling had begun and attacks against city administrators had commenced, but tempers would flare more Tuesday night after Beaverdale residents learned that their tax dollars could go to help pay for a project they've opposed from the beginning.

The city will use tax increment financing assistance - a way to pool the tax money collected within an area for a designated project - to help pay for an $11.6 million residential and commercial mixed development on the site of the former Rice Elementary School, if the City Council approves the recommendation at its Sept. 24 meeting.

Des Moines City Manager Richard Clark told a crowd of approximately 100 Beaverdale residents during an information meeting at the Acanthus Masonic Lodge, 4133 Urbandale Ave., that he will recommend the council use 72 percent of the TIF revenue generated by the project over a 10-year period to pay developer costs and use the remaining 28 percent for streetscape and other capital improvement costs in the area.

Clark said he estimates an average of $200,000 a year would be generated, which will be given to Rice Development Partners to help pay costs.

"TIF has been used extensively downtown and has been reasonably successful. This will be a first for Beaverdale, but TIF use has made projects we've done better, has encouraged good investment and development in the city and has made downtown better with revitalization," he said. "The quality of this project wouldn't be at the level it is at today without TIF."

State law requires 28 percent of TIF revenue be set aside for use on low- to moderate-income housing. Clark said the city would meet that requirement through contributions already being made in other areas of the city, which would allow the money to be freed up for other uses.

He also said the city will pay one-third, or roughly $130,000, of the costs associated with installing a public storm sewer in Wallace Lane to 40th Place to address storm water management issues associated with the development. The remaining two-thirds, he said, would be split between the developer and the Des Moines school board.

But for 92 percent of residents who responded to the city stating they wanted to see the site used as a park, using the words "tax dollars" was like rubbing salt in a wound.

"It helps the developer pay for the project, but it doesn't do what it's supposed to. It doesn't raise the adjacent property values," said Paul Knupp, 1804 47th St. "It's a shell game. It costs the taxpayer money on other fronts. It's a heavier burden on the tax base because it takes taxes away that could be used for other uses, such as schools."

Knupp added he doesn't want his tax money going to the developer: "All it will do is increase the profit for the developer."

Clark argued that the tax dollars generated by the project would create a revenue stream that otherwise would not have been available, and that the city would be better off in the long-run.

"It's an investment into the city's tax base that otherwise would not have been possible," he said.

The City Council approved rezoning the land and a conceptual site plan in March after the Plan and Zoning Commission failed to approve the zoning.

"Like it or not, it got zoned, so it will be there," Des Moines Community Development Director Larry Husle told the crowd. "Our effort since that time had been to try to make the project better."

Those plans include a traffic island in the Adams Avenue entrance drive to discourage people turning eastbound from the development onto the street and a "traffic calming device," or "neck-downs," extending the north and south curbs five feet to narrow traffic and force cars to slow.

But residents voiced concern that no traffic signal would be installed at the intersection of Beaver and Adams avenues.

"It's ridiculous, they don't stop at that light," Ginny Antrim, 2922 38th St., said of the traffic signal at 38th Street and Beaver Avenue. She held up a broken, glass dolphin sculpture and painting during the meeting, which she said broke from the rattling of traffic by her house.

City traffic engineer Gary Fox said he will monitor future traffic flows along Beaver and Adams avenues, but said the development would not create a significant increase in traffic to warrant a signal.

Still, some were not convinced.

"The increased traffic from the development will put more cars on Beaver Avenue and elevate the level of danger for pedestrian traffic," said Matt Culp, 1507 Germania Drive. "I'm for revitalization of commercial areas, but that should happen in existing commercial areas. It shouldn't expand into publicly owned land or private homes."

Reporter Tom Barton can be reached at (515) 284-8065 or

Beaverdale residents heard more about plans to develop the former Rice Elementary School site this week. One of their concerns - an increase in traffic on Beaver Avenue - was addressed by city officials using projections on future traffic volume that would come from several area property developments.

Four projects are estimated to bring an increase of 1,630 vehicles a day to the area, which would raise the vehicle count from 13,300 to 14,930. By project those estimates are:

- 150 vehicles due to the proposed Joe's Square retail.

- 300 for Boesen's expansion.

- 570 due to Rice Development.

- 610 for a planned Hy-Vee Foods store.

"It's a 13 percent increase in new daily traffic on that road, but it's still 20 below the total capacity for Beaver," said Des Moines traffic engineer Gary Fox.

- Tom Barton
User avatar
By speeder
To be fair on the traffic issue an average of 14,930 vehicles a day is well over the IDOT's standards for a 2-lane road with mixed zoning. 11,200 vehicles per day (VPD) would be the capacity of such a road at level of service D (LOS D). 14,850 VPD would be the capacity of a 3-lane road at LOS D.

However, LOS is not always the best measure of traffic as the calculations take no qualitative values into consideration...LOS focuses only on traffic speeds and congestion...

The way I see it, more traffic will actually help to calm traffic speeds and flow on Beaver which should be valued by those living off the road and in surrounding areas.
User avatar
By DMRyan
This should all come to a head at the council meeting next Monday night (which is jam packed with items of development interests for us geeks that closely follow this stuff). The Council will likely move the staff recommendation to finally approve the development plans for this project. Barring all of the financing coming together, this project could be a definite go very soon. See the link below for the conditions of approval. ... 07-596.htm
User avatar
By DMRyan
The council did approve the development tonight, despite heavy objection from many neighborhood residents. There were almost as many for the project that spoke tonight as there were against it. IMO, the controversy over using TIF dollars for the project were quelled somewhat when it was stated that the only City assistance going towards this project will come from the taxes generated by this development--not from tax payers city wide. The site is obviously generating no tax dollars now, so any increase in taxes generated seemed to be a definite plus in the council members unanimously voting to approve the project.

I'm sure Beaverdale residents are ready to get past the divide this has caused. Now it's on to the Beaverdale Hy-Vee controversy.
User avatar
By speeder
DMRyan wrote:The council did approve the development tonight, despite heavy objection from many neighborhood residents. There were almost as many for the project that spoke tonight as there were against it. IMO, the controversy over using TIF dollars for the project were quelled somewhat when it was stated that the only City assistance going towards this project will come from the taxes generated by this development--not from tax payers city wide. The site is obviously generating no tax dollars now, so any increase in taxes generated seemed to be a definite plus in the council members unanimously voting to approve the project.

I'm sure Beaverdale residents are ready to get past the divide this has caused. Now it's on to the Beaverdale Hy-Vee controversy.

So the boundaries for the TIF district are basically the confines of the Rice School site?
By SpinningBird
speeder wrote:So the boundaries for the TIF district are basically the confines of the Rice School site?

No, it is larger than that. It extends up Beaver Ave to Douglas area, and down to Hickman.

It believe the TIF does include the proposed HyVee area.
User avatar
By speeder
So assistance from the city is coming from outside the development, in the neighborhood, but outside the specific development. So the incremental increased value on the neighbors homes, who some of which didn't want the development to begin with, is going to pay to improve the rice school site for development.... ah Iowa TIF. I didn't know the Rice School site was blighted, huh.
User avatar
By DMRyan
Speeder, you are correct the TIF/Urban Renewal Area is much larger than just this site (36 acres along Beaver Avenue). However, as a part of the development agreement between the city and the developer, only the TIF tax revenues generated within the 4.3 acre Rice School site will be used to provide a financing gap to the Beaverdale Mixed Use project. ... 07-579.htm

The Rice School site may not be blighted, but it isn't producing any tax money or generating any jobs currently either. Portions of the rest of the Beaver Avenue strip within the TIF certainly appear blighted to me. Keep in mind that an Iowa city's ability to create a TIF district is longer necessitated by designating the area as blighted. Law changes over the years have made the use of TIF for more general purposes much more flexible.
User avatar
By speeder
Sorry, Iowa TIF needs a major overhaul. I'll agree that properties on Beaver are under-performing but blighted? I'm not sure I can mentally get to that conclusion. Blight is historically a pretty serious condition.

Then again, maybe its not so bad to use TIF, I don't know, I'm on the fence on the legal issues surrounding TIF right now. Things like this, I'm okay with, its infill. Things like Jordan Creek, not so okay with.

I know that TIF is a serious, as in $$$, redevelopment (and now new development) tool for cities but it can seriously backfire too if the incremental tax revenue doesn't meet the funds distributed... which happens. Also, I have never thought it was fair to set up a huge TIF district, in order to build up the tax base for the funds needed for whatever, and then spend the money on projects that don't directly affect all the properties in the TIF district.. which is hard to argue one way or the other because its not always a quantitative measurement.

I'll say it again, I love that this site is being developed, it was under-performing in my opinion and I hope that every property in the entire TIF district benefits from the improvements. Someday I also hope that people get to vote (directly) on the establishment of TIF districts... kind of like issuing bonds.
This Boesen project is dead. I'm actually glad it is. I think this site could be developed in a better fashion than the proposal selected.

Boesen group pulls out of Rice development deal
REGISTER STAFF • August 20, 2008

An investment group that included the late Ed Boesen has informed Des Moines school officials that is pulling out of a deal to develop the former Rice Elementary School site .

Rice Development Partners told school officials that it intends to terminate an agreement to purchase the vacant school site at 3001 Beaver Ave. for $650,000.

School officials said in a prepared statement today that they believe the contract is binding and that the district will take action “to mitigate its losses as a result of the breach of contract.”

Read the rest: ... 20025/1001
A lot of time and resources down the tubes on this project regardless of what side you sat on, but that's the life of a development in this climate and under this circumstance I guess.

I wonder what will happen next. Will the Save the Green lawsuit be entirely dropped? Will Save the Green attempt to purchase the site for a privately owned park as they once claimed they would? Will another developer step in to take over the project as is? The design work was almost entirely done on this project. If another developer moved in and purchased the design work for this project, they could still be building on this site very quickly. I have this suspicion that developers won't want to touch this project due to the controversy. Once the Beaverdale TIF gets finally approved, it may make development more lucrative though.
Listening to Mac's World on 98.3 FM yesterday afternoon I heard from Dick Murphy (being interviewed along with Ginny Strong and Jeanette Woods), current president of the Des Moines School Board that the School Board still intends to sell the Rice School site for development and has or will be contacting the 5 other teams that proposed on the project to weigh their interest. The School Board appears to be determined to carry out the recommendations from the Beaverdale Plan (a comprehensive plan with community input) that indicated the site should be redeveloped and that any development should be focused at providing opportunity for young (i.e. child bearing) families to move into the neighborhood, as it lost population from 1990-2000.

I would guess that the site will be developed eventually, especially when Hy-Vee gets up-and-running and Joe's Square is fully leased. :D
Here's round 4 of a scheduled 10 round fight.:wink: The Zombie group "Save the Green" is back with another proposal to keep the Rice school site from going commercial. I'll make a bet that 5 years from now this site is still grass with two soccer goal posts. In other words, between the economy, the mess with the Boesen Estate, these "tree huggers" and the time it takes to bring any new proposal to fruition - any development will be some time in the distant future.

From the Des Moines Register:

Green group updates plan to develop Rice property
Save the Green presents its ideas, which include rain gardens, to the Beaverdale Neighborhood Association.

A group of environmentally conscious Beaverdale-area residents is again shopping a plan to turn the site of the former Rice Elementary school into a park and recreation area.

The group, Save the Green, has updated concept plans for the 4.4-acre park at 3001 Beaver Ave. to include rain gardens, which supporters say would aid in at least part of the area's storm sewer problems.

Save the Green members met with members of the Beaverdale Neighborhood Association and representatives of the Beaverdale Main Street Initiative last week to discuss its plans.

"Ultimately, Save the Green's goal is to keep the area as unchanged as possible, or at least not commercially developed," said Matt Culp, a resident of Germania Drive and spokesman for the group.

The Des Moines school district, which owns the site, had selected a company of investors to purchase and develop the site for retail and commercial use. However, the group, Rice Development Partners, backed out of the agreement. One of its investors, Ed Boesen, committed suicide amid large-scale financial problems.

Save the Green had previously sued the school district to block the sale of the property in an effort to keep it as a recreation field. Their plan would require Save the Green members to raise $400,000 to buy the property from the school district and budget at least $150,000 to develop and maintain the park.

Culp emphasized the plans and projected costs are in the draft form and likely will evolve as discussions continue.

Currently, the space is vacant, save for two soccer goals.

After hearing Save the Green's proposal to develop the site as a park, including rain gardens and other features, the Beaverdale Neighborhood Association board members said they wanted more time to review the plan before making a recommendation.

The field "is one of those things that if you asked 10 people what they wanted to see there, you would get 10 different answers," said Roy Cacek, vice president of the neighborhood association.

Cacek said he has heard from neighbors who want everything from retail development to condo-style living for senior citizens to a mix of housing and retail. Some, Cacek said, also want to see the site become a park.

"The thing all the ideas I've heard have in common is they want something more there," Cacek said. "People don't want just a field with a couple of soccer goals."

The Des Moines school board discussed the sale of the field at its Oct. 7 meeting, but didn't make a decision.
I thought part of the reasoning for people buying private single family detached homes, like the people around this site, was so that they could recreate in their own front, back, and side yards and not have to share with the public. Some of the residents of these single family homes around the property want to recreate at a park now with the public. I like Beaverdale even though it is low-density. This development proposal could be medium-high density if built. The group that wants to have a public park is sort of part of a larger group of people trying to live in the country and the city at the same time, which results in basically suburban-style development. With this development, Beaverdale will overall still be low-density. I wonder how many Beaverdale residents that are part of Save the Green have property directly bordering or across the street from this site?
I wonder how many Beaverdale residents that are part of Save the Green have property directly bordering or across the street from this site?

Good question - of which I don't have an answer. However, their spokesperson cited in the article, lives nowhere near the Rice site. Germania Drive is located off of Forest St. and 42nd. - about 1.5 miles south of the Rice site.

..."Matt Culp, a resident of Germania Drive and spokesman for the group."
An interesting point, BLD: that Mr. Culp lives in the Forestdale area: a small, woodsy, pricey enclave that borders several areas -- the Drake neighborhood, Beaverdale, and Waveland Park -- and is not in the immediate vicinity of the former RIce School site. Some, I suspect, would not necessarily consider him a Beaverdale resident. Hawk, you grew up in Beaverdale -- did people usually consider Forestdale part of the neighborhood?

Just my two cents, being an ex-Des Moines resident who sometimes checks this forum: the opposition to New Urbanist development proposals at the former Rice site sounds suspiciously like the more extreme forms of NiMBY-ism in some of Southern California's more affluent neighborhoods -- NIMBY-ism that has kept SoCal's own infrastructure structure [and social services] severely fractured and thus behind much of the country, including DSM, regardless of California's reputation for progressive attitudes. Certain people are all for change and improvement, as long as it's Not In My Backyard (or in the case of Mr. Culp, within two miles of his).
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