Oak Park/Highland Park District
The Oak and Highland Park areas have always been full of rich and historic culture for the City of Des Moines, found in every building you’ll see. They each have a unique story and are important to the culture of the area. Thanks to the community members and organizations partnering with the City of Des Moines, the area is getting some much-needed improvements.
- Old Highland Park Country Club
- Highland Park Apartment Building
- Chuck’s Restaurant
- Old Highland Park Bakery
These projects were pitched to the City’s Planning and Urban Design division by the Benchmark Real Estate Group. The Group works closely with City staff and consultants to make planning decisions. Ultimately, the goal for these projects is to drive more re-investments in Oak Park and Highland Park.
The Old Highland Park Country Club’s building has housed many important businesses for the community. The building began as a bank, but after an addition nearly tripled its size, it eventually was occupied by an United States Postal Service office, a dentist’s office, a cigar shop, and a barbershop. Now lying vacant, the City is working closely with the Benchmark Real Estate Group to reinvest in the Highland Park area and renew the building as a staple of the community once again.
As a part of the National Register of Historic Places, the City is taking the utmost care to bring life back to the building while maintaining the look of the surrounding area. The historic clay tile will be repaired or replaced as needed, and dark-bronze gutters will tie the building in with others around it. The building will also receive a few technical and visual upgrades like new condensing units and concrete curbs.
The building’s location at the southeastern corner of 6th and Euclid means it's a prime spot for businesses to be seen and thrive. The interior will be transformed into five commercial use units adding up to a total of 8,870 square feet. Necessary repairs will be made so tenants can move back in, but tenants will be able to customize their units however they see fit.
In recent years, this building has suffered major structural and water damage. With visionaries focused on investing in the community combining with the City’s efforts, the building will receive much-needed repairs to be used by the public again. The first floor will serve commercial needs and will offer 3,800 square feet of space across two units. The upper two floors will contain 14 multi-family residential units. You’ll have a choice between 1 of 8 studio apartments or 1of 6 1 bedroom apartments.
To help maintain its historic look, much of the original clay tile be kept but repairs will be made as needed. Dark-bronze gutters will be installed to match surrounding buildings. The aluminum storefront frames will be replaced with glass, and all residential units will get new windows. The vinyl siding around some of the residential unit windows will also be removed and replaced with surface-treated stucco.
The commercial units will be fully customizable by the tenants. Both the commercial and residential units will receive new ceilings and repaired plaster walls to fix the water damage. Tenants living in the new residential units will have brand new wood and carpeted floors. All units will also include ceramic tile bathrooms. The original Murphy beds have been restored to excellent condition in select apartments, and several of the units will offer affordable housing for those who qualify.
While tenants can enjoy the features of the building, its location also means quick and easy access to Interstate 235 just a few minutes down the road. For businesses in the building, this means high exposure to vehicle and pedestrian traffic. There are also many other businesses nearby including other restaurants, a coffee shop, the North Side Library, and a grocery store.
Many residents of Des Moines, especially in the Highland Park area, have been to or heard of Chuck’s Restaurant. Established in 1956, Chuck’s is one of the oldest restaurants in the City of Des Moines. The restaurant prides itself on its thin-crust pizza made fresh near the store’s front window, southern Italian cuisine, and their annual Thanksgiving Dinner that offers a free meal to community members.
Since the building that houses it is 125 years old, it’s in need of some maintenance. In partnership with Chuck’s owner, Emily Jones, the Neighborhood Development Corp, and Invest DSM, the restaurant began getting urgent repairs in the fall of 2020. The project is ongoing, but when finished, the building will have upgrades made to the roof, all of the mechanical systems, and other structural damages. There are 5 residential units on the second floor that have been vacant for several years, but these will be renovated to address code violations so residents can once again rent them.
The restaurant’s exterior is receiving some touch-ups as well. While keeping visual consistency with the historical nature of the restaurant and the Highland Park area, all new fiberglass-framed windows are being installed along with new fixtures and finishes for all residential units. The brick sections are being repainted, and the restaurant is receiving other exterior improvements.
Although the Hiland Park Bakery closed earlier this year, the City of Des Moines has partnered financially with the Neighborhood Development Corporation (NDC) to buy the bakery from the previous owner. The building will receive some needed improvements with the goal of getting this business back up and running. The NDC is actively working with a tenant to reopen the bakery as well as supporting other small businesses, neighborhood commercial stabilization, and neighborhood improvements throughout the City. The reopening of Hiland Park Bakery will hopefully help retain jobs for community members and restore incomes lost when the business closed.
We’re happy to be a part of this historic area getting the much-needed TLC it needs to keep making Des Moines great. If you want to follow the progress and see all the updates, make sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram. If you have questions about this development project, feel free to contact our Office of Economic Development staff.