DES MOINES (AP) — A developer needs just one more city council vote before he can implement proposed plans to transform a former Des Moines junior high school into an eclectic space featuring meeting rooms, restaurants, a bar and boutique hotel.
Jeff Young, owner of We Can Build It, said he is hoping to invest up to $8 million to revamp the old Franklin Junior High school.
The city council is set to vote May 20 on Young’s request to rezone the 213,000-square-foot property from church and school use to a planned unit development, the Des Moines Register reported.
“The area has kind of dwindled a little bit, and there’s buildings boarded up,” Young said. “I think, what we’re trying to do with Franklin, that neighborhood can become hopping again.”
Young’s plan embraces the building’s history. The hotel rooms would feature the original blackboards, intercoms and wall-mounted pencil sharpeners. The names of the bar and restaurant would reference education. The building would keep the junior high school’s name.
Supporters said they would like to see life injected back into the long-abandoned and underutilized building that’s attracted crime in the past.
“From a neighborhood development perspective, I’m really excited about the businesses that this will bring — not only a place to go eat, but when my parents come visit, a hotel they can stay at,” said Teva Dawson, who lives just a few blocks from the school and is assisting with project management. “The entire thing will be a really fun experience.”
Critics cited concerns about excessive traffic, garbage and noise.
Young said he plans to buy the unoccupied building across the street from the school that recently operated as the Mercy Franklin Center. Young added that he envisions stores on the ground floor retail and condos upstairs.
“If we can’t figure out what to do with this building and get it rezoned, it’ll be another huge piece of property that sits empty with no plan moving forward,” Dawson said. “We feel like this is a really great way of activating it.”