Recent News

Sherman acknowledges criticism, pledges commitment, shares new vision for D.M. projects

Reported in the Des Moines Business Record – 10/27/2014
BY KENT DARR | Senior Staff Writer | @KentDarr

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The ceremonial dirt has been tossed, now George Sherman says he is ready to launch the build-out of an urban village in what has been an industrial wasteland south of Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway in downtown Des Moines.

At a groundbreaking event Thursday, Sherman was backed by city leaders, an aggressive lender, a local builder and, standing in the background, representatives from one of Greater Des Moines most prominent developers and commercial real estate brokerages. He said his Minneapolis-based firm remains committed to a potential $300 million in new office buildings, retail properties, a hotel and 800 to 1,000 residential units in the area called Gray’s Landing.

He acknowledged that he has come under criticism for the seven-year delay in launching the project, which is governed by a complicated development agreement that was inked with the city in 2007 and backed by a heavy dose of public dollars.

Des Moines City Councilwoman Christine Hensley, possibly one of the city’s most vocal advocates of downtown development, told the Business Record earlier this month that she was frustrated by the lack of activity in the area that is also known as River Point West.

On Thursday, Hensley said she “almost fell out of my chair” when Sherman asked her to take a seat on the dais for the groundbreaking event.

“It’s all about tough love,” she said, adding that “it is only fair to take the recession into account” for the delay.

Sherman acknowledged that he had been stung by the criticism.

“I take it personally,” he told the Business Record.

However, the recession, a shift in housing preferences, especially among millennials, and a glut of office vacancies downtown, forced Sherman to reconsider the original development plan.

“At one time, I envisioned office buildings all along Martin Luther King,” he said.

Now there is a new vision.

The groundbreaking was to mark the launch of construction of a Holiday Inn Express – one hotel where once two were planned – and, in the next few months, a 72,000-square-foot office building.

Construction on the Holiday Inn Express should begin in about 15 days, the office building should be under construction in January, he said, and all of that work is scheduled to wrap up by December 2015.

CBRE|Hubbell Commercial is lining up tenants for the office building.

A new project could be announced every 120 days over the next few years, Sherman said. He also said the Nexus residential complex planned for the area should bring luxury housing to downtown, the likes of which has not been seen before.

Sherman said he now sees a mix of property types for Gray’s Landing, including a grocery and additional retail, up to three office buildings, with banks being one example of possible tenants.

The office building that could be under construction could see a major Greater Des Moines law firm move in when it is completed, a real estate broker said.

“At one time, I envisioned all office, now I see 50 to 60 percent retail,” he said.

Housing plans have changed, too. Sherman said that seven years ago he thought the majority of the residential construction would be in for-sale units. The balance will shift in favor of rental units, based on current trends. Keep in mind, the numbers could change. Sherman has learned to be flexible.

Sherman also said that over the next five years his Greater Des Moines workforce will grow to 200-250 from the 20 it currently employs.

Sherman said he will take his time in replacing Jackie Nickolaus, who was the face of the company in Greater Des Moines and Iowa for nearly a decade before leaving earlier this month to take a position at Kum & Go LC. Sherman hopes to fill her spot sometime during the first quarter of 2015.

In the meantime, he wants to assure Hensley and others that Sherman Associates is around for the long haul.

“We’re committed to doing the right thing and getting it done,” Sherman said.

Office market shows signs of life

Reported in the Des Moines Register – 10/15/2014

Sure, no one is gearing up to build the next 801 Grand. But a handful of new low-rise office building projects are breathing life into the metro area’s long-dormant office market.

The development of hotels, retail centers and warehouses bounced back since the recession. Apartment construction never really missed a step. But the development of speculative office space — that is office space available for lease — had ceased until recently. Read the whole article

New eatery opens on Court Avenue

Reported in the Business Record – 10/21/2014

RoCA, a new restaurant owned by commercial real estate brokers Tyler Dingel, Todd Millang and Brian Martin, has opened downtown at 208 Court Ave., the Des Moines Register reports. Formerly Sbrocco, the restaurant serves a menu of shared plates and entrees, and seats about 165 people. Hours for opening week are 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. this Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and 5 p.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday. Regular hours begin Oct. 28.

EMC skywalk closes for 2-year renovation project

Reported in the Business Record – 10/20/14

The downtown skywalk across Eighth Street south of Walnut Street closes for about two years, while EMC Insurance Cos. begins demolishing a trio of century-old brick buildings to make way for a new four-story office, reports DesMoinesRegister.com. Check a map of current and expected skywalk closures here.

Winter Market dates announced; Downtown market to end this weekend

Reported in the Business Record, 10/20/14

As this year’s Downtown Farmers Market comes to an end, Greater Des Moines residents can still take advantage of the 2014 Winter Market which will be held Nov. 21-22 and Dec. 12-13 at Capital Square and Kaleidoscope at The Hub. The Winter Market will feature more than 130 vendors, entertainment and more. This weekend will be the last for the Downtown Farmers Market, held in the Court Avenue district from 8 a.m. to noon. This Saturday will also be Trick-or-treat at the Market. Attendees are encouraged to dress up in costume to celebrate Halloween.