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DES MOINES, Iowa – The former Younkers building that was severely damaged by fire last year has a new owner.

Blackbird Investments has purchased the Wilkins building and the remaining Younkers site from Alexander Company. Their immediate focus will be on the Wilkins Building. The renovation project will include full restoration of the tea room, 60 apartments, underground parking and 11,500 square feet of first floor retail.

The team being engaged to complete the project includes Neuman-Monson Architects, the Weitz Company, MODUS Engineering and Lincoln Savings Bank.

Renovation will begin this summer with an anticipated completion date of late spring 2016.

Blackbird Partner and CBRE Vice President TJ Jacobs will actively list the ground floor retail space immediately. Once the Wilkins building is fully underway, the Blackbird Investments team will turn their attentions toward the remaining empty site at the corner of 7th and Walnut Street.

The Younkers building caught fire on March 29, 2014. The severe damage caused a partial collapse of the eastern structure, which ultimately required demolition. The remaining western building was severely damaged, but salvageable. The surviving structure, known as the Wilkins Building, housed the historic Younkers Tea Room.

“While the Alexander Company deeply regrets that it will not be involved in the completion of the project, the sale of the property to Blackbird Investments ensures the Wilkins Building, including its Tea Room, will be in a position where it can be restored without further delay. We greatly appreciate the efforts of those at the state and local level who have generously committed their resources to this project and who have joined with our neighbors, investors and lenders to show a great deal of compassion and cooperation in helping us through this trying time. We take comfort in the knowledge that that Blackbird Investments is dedicated to providing the quality restoration that this landmark deserves,” explains Dave Vos, Development Project Manager for Alexander Company.

“My partners and I are honored to be able to restore this landmark.  Every time the Wilkins-Younkers site comes up in conversation we hear stories of dinners, galas, reunions with friends, wedding receptions and other life experiences in the Tea Room.  This building is part of the history of Des Moines and its residents.  Looking forward, this restoration will provide a new chapter to the building, provide exceptional housing opportunities downtown, and help revitalize the Walnut Street corridor,” says Blackbird Partner Justin Doyle.