Valley Junction has a rich history on the West side of Des Moines dating back to 1846. It was accepted as a Main Street Iowa Community in 1987 and has since been a popular West Des Moines neighborhood for niche shopping, antiques and crafts. The district has faced many challenges to economic viability including the opening of Valley West Mall in the mid-1970s, a ruinous flood of 1993, and the opening of Jordan Creek Town Center in 2004 with new suburban retail and office opportunities only a few miles west. Through it all, Historic Valley Junction has continued to improve and continue to grow in the face of adversity. When acquired, this property contained a well-maintained but non-descript brick and block building housing a long-tenured neighborhood furniture store. Through the process of removing multiple years of interior finish, the building’s rich history and exciting potential were uncovered.
With the goal of creating an open, flexible and creative workspace for a growing team of Mechanical and Electrical Engineers, all the non-essential walls, ceiling and applied finishes were removed, leaving a raw, 10,000sf volume as a setting for a series of delicate interventions containing various program elements. Innovative projects including the KCL Engineering World Headquarter are leading the district’s most recent modern resurgence for young professionals. The company’s investment in the modernization was unprecedented for an employer and according to the Historic Valley Junction Foundation (HVJF) has led the way of the district’s 16 new businesses in 2017-2018. These new businesses include restaurants, bars, retail shops and additional professional offices.
HVJF estimates that over 50 new jobs have been brought to the district in 2017-2018. KCL (which moved from within the district) is now the district’s largest employer with 35 employees, and room to expand to 50. The impact is not only by day-to-day expenditures of staff, but drawing from industry colleagues, product reps and community groups who visit the business daily. Based on traffic counts and aerial photos, HVJF estimates that over 1,000 people per day visit the district.
The state-of-the-art building was equipped with new energy efficient systems. Considering the nature of the firm’s business, the systems were left entirely exposed. The interventions were fully prefabricated including the post-and beam structures, wall panels and glass doors and were delivered and assembled in a matter of days, making the renovation an example in sustainable design and construction.
KCL’s renovation project has helped redefine the area as a premier live, work and play destination. The impact on property values is already becoming evident. It has also demonstrated that there is potential for redevelopment throughout the whole Valley Junction district, not just 5th Street- expanding the district’s physical footprint. The district’s recent 2017 designation as a Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places unlocks millions of dollars for various federal preservation tax credits and will leverage even more private investment in neighborhood revitalization.