NEW PURPOSE: Historic Younkers Building Plans

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A landmark building in downtown Des Moines is getting a major makeover.

The Younkers building at 7th and Walnut has a long history in Iowa.

Three brothers started the department store in 1856 in Keokuk where a shirt sold for $1.

Soon a second store opened in Des Moines, and in 1899, the company’s headquarters was moved to 7th and Walnut.

“In Des Moines when we think of an icon we think about this Younkers building and the history that is here,” says Des Moines City Council Member Chris Coleman.

City Council Member Christine Hensley also shared her memories of the building, “It`s been such a fixture of the city forever and I remember great memories coming down here as a child.”

Mark Barkley worked at Younkers for nearly 20 years.

“In 1986 it was still owned by members of the Younkers family and when I left it was a division of Saks Fifth Avenue,  so there were numerous changes but it was still the same people and stayed the same culture the whole time I was here,” says Barkley.

Barkley worked at Younkers from 1986-2003.

“I wanted to remember it how it was, and even though I look at these bare walls I see the merchandise and the people still here,” says Barkley.

After 106 years, Younkers closed its doors in 2005.

The historic building sat vacant, until just recently.

“The city of Des Moines is thrilled with the ultimate use of this. New housing units for hundreds of new residents, 50,000 square feet for retail space,” says Coleman.

A 35-million dollar renovation will preserve the history of the building, including the iconic Younkers Tea Room will be restored for event space.

“This will be a tremendous boost for the city, this is such a key corner, key area, you have Walnut Street and everything EMC is doing, so it`s all coming together quite nicely,” says Hensley.

120 income restricted apartments and 50,000 square feet of available commercial and retail space.

Construction is expected to be finished by November of 2014.

The building will also be re-named, The Flagship Building.  That’s because the downtown Younkers store was referred to as the flagship store.


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