Here’s Jackie Johansen’s vision for property on a high-profile corner of downtown Des Moines:
Build a multilevel structure that includes spaces for unique uses like a food hall patterned after St. Louis’ City Foundry, music and art programs, and educational offerings including a real estate school. Preserve the historical portion of the structure at 204 S.W. Second St. for uses that could include offices. Johansen, principal of Shattered Glass Development, has a contract to purchase the nearly half-acre parcel for an undisclosed purchase price. She said she expects to acquire the property by the end of the year.
“This location is really key,” said Johansen, whose company offers a range of commercial real estate services including equity attraction, site selection, brokerage and development. “We’ve been keeping an eye on other sites that have heavy living around them and heavy retail. … This fits what we’d been looking for.”
The structure was originally constructed as a grain storage and distribution facility, Johansen said. The original portion of the building is believed to have been constructed between 1880 and the early 1900s. A warehouse was added four to five decades ago.
Central Iowa Mechanical has occupied the site for the past several decades. The company moved to a new location in 2021 that Shattered Glass Development helped it acquire, Johansen said.
“They were continuing to pay taxes on this property [on Second Street] and storing some materials here,” Johansen said. “I kept asking if I could buy the building. … They finally said yes and we got it under contract.”
A resurgence has occurred in the past two decades in the area surrounding the property. In the mid-1990s, a former warehouse was converted to residential units, now known as the Brown Camp Lofts. In 2013, a manufacturing-turned-storage facility at 350 S.W. Second St. was converted to a 44-unit apartment building called Ballyard Lofts. A couple of years later, a former warehouse at 300 Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway was redeveloped into commercial space and a multilevel structure added onto the building, whose tenants now included Fuzzy’s Taco Shop, Anytime Fitness and Blaze Pizza. In addition, millions of dollars in improvements have been made to nearby Principal Park and more are planned. The Des Moines City Council in August approved spending $5.8 million on the first phase of renovations that will bring the minor league baseball park up to standards set by Major League Baseball. The property at 204 S.W. Second St. is located close to several downtown destinations, including Principal Park, the Science Center of Iowa and the Court Avenue entertainment district, wrote Ryan Moffatt, economic development coordinator for the city of Des Moines. “Redevelopment of this site could help to better connect these attractions and hopefully inject some additional vitality into the block.”
Johansen said the warehouse portion of the structure likely will be razed and the older portion of the building, which is considered historical because of its age, would be preserved.
However, no structural changes would be made to the original portion of the building, she said.
“If changes were made, that would trigger bringing the entire structure up to current building code standards, which would be very expensive,” Johansen said.
Moffatt likes the idea of preserving the original structure.
“I think that a historically compatible restoration of the existing 3 story brick building to creative office space or a mixed-use building with commercial on the first level and upper floor residential units would be appropriate,” Moffatt wrote. Preserving the building could “provide a nod to the once industrial/warehousing heritage of the immediate area.” Surface parking on a gravel lot is immediately south of the property. The city of Des Moines owns the lot. Johansen said she is talking to city officials about ways to address parking in the area. If the project moves forward as Johansen envisions, it would be Shattered Glass Development’s first ground-up project.
Johansen has spent a lot of time planning the type of development that could occur on the site. She and some members of CREW Iowa recently traveled to St. Louis to visit the Food Hall – City Foundry STL, which opened in August 2021. Johansen said she’d like to offer a similar concept in Des Moines.
“The concept is booming in cities that are a bit larger than Des Moines,” she said. “Some of the food halls are established businesses that share space. For them the food hall is a place to try out new foods. However, the concept that I’m excited about is targeting [food businesses] that have grown out of their food trucks but aren’t ready for a stand-alone restaurant.”
The eateries would share a large commercial kitchen. Each business, though, would have its own restaurant-like space for customers to order food. Space for customer seating would be shared by the businesses. Johansen would also like to launch a real estate school for people who want to learn more about the commercial real estate business. Nearly all of the educational hours required to get a real estate license are focused on residential, she said.
“It’s hard for people to get into commercial real estate,” she said. “Residential agents don’t know how to break into [commercial real estate]; new agents don’t even know that there’s a difference.”
Johansen said a real estate school would allow people interested in commercial real estate to shadow experienced brokers and attend sessions specifically tailored to commercial real estate. Also under consideration is the inclusion of a multifamily component to the project, Johansen said.
“I think there’s a desire to have some higher-end, 55 and older units and possibly some low-income housing,” she said. “There’s a lot of possibilities.”
Before any of Johansen’s visions for the property can become reality, she first has to acquire it, a step she said will likely be done by the end of the year. In addition, she’s in the process of selecting an architect and raising equity for the proposed project.
“It is important to me that we invite into the investment group CREW network members from around the world, women investors, minority investors and others that want to be part of this unique site and project,” she said.
Johansen is also trying to remain realistic about development.
“I’ve had some folks come and say, ‘Can I buy it?’ and that’s not really what I want to do,” she said. Others have expressed an interest in leasing space, she said.
“I want to be open-minded. That’s the smart thing to do,” Johansen said. “I want to focus on bringing in the tenants and building the right development team to bring the site to life.”