DMPS Makes Offer on Office Building; Move Would Allow Expansion of Downtown Education Choices

lotterybuildingThe school district’s purchase of an office building will open up more educational choices in downtown Des Moines.

Des Moines Public Schools has made an offer of $1.6 million to purchase the current headquarters of the Iowa Lottery, located at 2323 Grand Avenue in Des Moines, to serve as the administrative offices for the school district.

If agreed to by both the Des Moines School Board and the Iowa Lottery Authority Board, moving the district offices will allow the Walnut Street School to expand in its current location, providing more educational choices for parents as both housing and corporate offices continue to expand in downtown Des Moines. Both the current DMPS offices and the Walnut Street School, an International Baccalaureate school, are located at 901 Walnut Street.

“This move is a cost-effective way for the school district to expand a school that has a real need for additional space while at the same time making use of an existing building in the city to better meet our office needs” said Superintendent Tom Ahart.

Some of the key benefits that would result from the purchase include:

Expand Downtown Educational Choices:

  • As both downtown housing and corporate offices continue to expand, the district has a need for more downtown classroom space.
  • The Walnut Street School turns away approximately 50 kindergarten students each year due to lack of space.
  • The Walnut Street School is currently a two-section school with nearly 300 students.
  • Remodeling additional space at 901 Walnut Street, currently used for district offices, is a cost-effective way to enable the school to grow to a three section school, or more, over time.

More Efficient DMPS Office Space

  • 2323 Grand Avenue uses an existing building for district offices, saving several million dollars in new construction costs.
  • The building is centrally located within the school district and adjacent to downtown, providing easier and more convenient access for visitors.
  • The building is in “move in” condition for the school district with the only major change being upgrades to more efficient mechanical systems to lower operational costs.
  • The building includes 110 parking spaces, saving more than $80,000 per year the district currently spends on downtown parking for employees.

“For the school district, this transaction is a win-win in that we are able to utilize existing buildings to meet our needs at a cost far less than building new classrooms or offices from the ground up,” said Bill Good, chief operations officer for Des Moines Public School. “If we were start a similar project from scratch, it would cost $9 million or more. This meets both our educational and administrative needs at a fraction of that price.”

The Iowa Lottery building was built in 1954, and originally was the headquarters of the Farmers Mutual Hail Insurance Company.

The school district’s offer of $1.6 million will be considered by the Iowa Lottery Authority Board at its meeting on Tuesday. The purchase of the building will be considered at the Des Moines School Board’s meeting on May 20.

Funding for the purchase of 2323 Grand Avenue and its mechanical upgrades, as well as the remodeling of additional classroom space at the Walnut Street School, would come from revenue the school district receives from the state-wide sales tax for school infrastructure.

If approved by both parties, the school district is expected to take possession of the building later this calendar year. Work on mechanical improvements to the building would begin shortly afterwards, with district offices moving later in the spring of 2015 when that work is complete.