DES MOINES, Iowa — East Des Moines neighbors are making their opinions known about a vacant department store site through an online petition.
The former Gordmans on Hubbell Avenue closed a year ago, but the building sold for $1.2 million last month to a company which builds self-storage facilities. In response, Heaven Chamberlain created a petition which pleads the building’s owners to “build a store, not a storage unit.”
“The east side has never been great, but we were better before,” Chamberlain said. “Now we’re being disenfranchised, and we’re sick of it.”
Chamberlain said she was motivated by the recent transformations of a former Kmart and a former Dahl’s in east Des Moines into storage facilities. More than 1,000 people have signed the petition so far.
However, Des Moines city councilwoman Linda Westergaard, who represents the area, said the petition will have no effect on real estate plans.
“We just don’t have control over who buys and sells property,” Westergaard said. “It was already zoned correctly. We can’t just tell somebody, ‘You can’t do this.'”
Additionally, Westergaard believes the possible storage facility could become a benefit for the area.
“If the storage facilities weren’t needed, we wouldn’t have them,” Westergaard said. “They pay taxes, they bring in income, and commerce is good for our city.”
Melvin Kenney, who lives directly behind the former store, said the new owners have already started cleaning up the alley.
“You don’t see the garbage laid back there now,” Kenney said. “You don’t see any refrigerators or mattresses. I just want them to keep it clean, put the security up, and do the right thing.”
Chamberlain believes the right thing could be a grocery store, since there is not one within walking distance of the Gordmans site.
“My sister just wants to be able to walk to a grocery store to get a healthy snack,” Chamberlain said. That’s what we were hoping the Kmart would turn into.”
Even if the petition does not have any legal effect, Chamberlain still plans to deliver hard copies of the document to every member of city council.
“I feel ignored,” Chamberlain said. “I just want to be treated like the rest of the city.”