DES MOINES, Iowa — The future of the former home of the Des Moines Social Club could be decided by a consultant’s report expected in the coming weeks.
The building at the corner of 9th Street and Mulberry Street in downtown Des Moines was originally the city’s Fire Station #1. For much of the last five years it was the home to the Des Moines Social Club. That organization folded earlier this year after failing to find its financial footing. The Social Club was reportedly operating at annual budget deficits topping $100,000.
In September of group of elected, civic and business leaders announced plans to convert the space into a year-round indoor public market. A new board was formed to oversee that transition. The board recently welcomed a consulting group to Des Moines to review the space and their proposed plans.
Board member Jim Brannen, CEO of FBL Financial, says the project can only move forward if it can find a way to be financially successful. “We are excited about the possibility of a full-time downtown marketplace,” Brannen says “But having said that, we know that we have to get this project right for the community support. We have to have a model that is sustainable financially.”
Brannen says there are some issues that must be overcome besides just finances. That includes finding reasonable parking accommodations in the crowded downtown neighborhood.
The consultants report is expected to come back within a few weeks. If that report shows a viable way forward for the market project then the board will move on to its next phase. That would include finding funding for the project as well as searching for future vendors. The building is still home to both Malo and Scenic Route Bakery.
Brannen says a public market has been on the ‘wish list’ for city leaders for years. He’s hopeful the project can move forward at the historic former firehouse.
“A market space like this has been included as a vision for our community for several years now. Several spaces have actually been explored and looked at,” Brannen says, “This space with some value in the building and the land that is already there provides an opportunity to evaluate whether or not we can possibly get to our endgame more affordably than if we started from scratch somewhere else downtown.”