DES MOINES, Iowa — We were there two years ago when the First Church of Christ Scientist made a scene — released from duty after more than 80 years. Headed for a new function only yards, and years, away.
But the journey took more turns than expected.
The new high-rise on Grand Avenue was to be more than just a condominium. It was to be a statement piece; the first there in decades.
Since the days when Hubbells, Polks, Finkbines, and Witmers built their homes here the structures of Grand Avenue have made it just that.
“This was a street to show off your mansion,” says architect Brad Hartman.
“A lot of big names that have shaped this town,” added Bryan Myers of Neumann Brothers Construction.
The mansions would soon give way to condominiums, but the unwritten covenant remained: those who built or bought here wanted function, but coveted form.
“You look at the Barbican that was a really cool building,” says Dr. Bob Margeas, a Grand Avenue resident. “And the 3660 building? So great.”
And so when the First Church of Christ Scientist was purchased by developers Harry and Pam Bookey, a “grand design” was in order: a modern, ten-story high-rise, with elements of the old church retained.
“I think the church is what it’s all about,” Pam Bookey says. “If we couldn’t keep the two arms of the church, we would never have developed this.”
The old spire was meant to be a centerpiece. It would also become a precursor to the many challenges ahead.
“When we lowered it to the ground, we started to see a little bit of a tweak in it,” Myers said, tapping the now-grounded spire.
Hundreds of lightning strikes had reduced the inner wooden frame to charcoal, and a new plan was needed.
“We decided to keep the whole 50-foot (spire) and then we rebuilt the insides of it.”
That change was far from the last for project manager, Jeremy Alden.
“It’s been a challenging project,” he admits.
What began as a dream design was put through an obstacle course of supply chain snags, inflation, and…
“Each unit owner was able to work with an architect and literally design their own space,” Alden added.
That meant last-minute changes to the 3750 on Grand project.
Some bought two units and knocked out a wall. One wanted a unit on the 7th floor and one on the 8th, and a stairway connecting them.
“You were having to look at it like 38 different units!” Margeas laughed, “So it made it a lot more difficult.”
“When you customize,” Harman explains, “you have everything from floor finishes, wall finishes, layouts, materials, HVAC…and so you have probably 50 people touching each unit.”
The result has been a staggered finish.
The pool opened, but just in time to catch the autumn leaves. The sod will need to wait until spring. Some units won’t be ready until December; others have been occupied for months.
“I thought it was really cool,” Margeas said, sitting inside the clean lines and soaring ceilings of his finished unit.
Margeas wanted something different in a new home, and he got it.
“I love the windows; most of the views are fantastic!”
Margeas can look down at the spire from his front-facing windows.
Even incomplete, it’s clear this place has checked its boxes. New and old; modern yet nostalgic.
“I just think everything about it is elegant and gracious,” Bookey says. “Which is exactly what we wanted.”
But if the view from the street is impressive, from ten stories up — from its spot on the hill — it’s sublime. Des Moines as only a select few can see it. We counted 23 water towers in the distance and an immeasurable canopy below.
“You really have a ‘high-rise high rise’ for a 10-story building, which is great,” Hartman says of his design.
Those who’ll get to take in these views, enjoy this space, and appreciate the touches of history will be more than just fortunate. They’ll be tasked with carrying forward the legacy of those who came before them. Intent on making a Grand Avenue in Des Moines, just that.