Marking a renewed commitment to the growth and development of the Drake Neighborhood, Drake University announced today that it is seeking proposals from a pre-determined group of eleven Iowa firms to develop a plot of University-owned land along University Avenue in Des Moines. The University has formally set expectations that any proposal submitted must be in keeping with the neighborhood’s character and beneficial to Drake students, neighborhood residents, and the economic growth of the area.
The University is collaborating with the Neighborhood Development Corporation to accomplish this ambitious goal. The NDC is a community-focused, non-profit that works to revitalize neighborhoods and promote sustainable development in part through urban planning and real estate development consulting services. Working closely with organizations that have vast local experience will help ensure projects that drive economic development going forward.
“Drake University has been an anchor in Des Moines for 135 years and, with this request for proposals, the University is leading the way in attracting transformative development to the neighborhood,” said NDC Executive Director Glenn Lyons. “Drake is setting themselves and the community up for success by forming a special committee to guide this project’s trajectory, including campus administrators, faculty, staff, trustees, a local business owner, and neighborhood residents.”
Drake University President Marty Martin, who recently celebrated the conclusion of his first year on campus, said the University is looking at tangible and viable ways for Drake to integrate more fully with the surrounding neighborhood.
“The plans that come out of this process will be a collaborative effort that catalyzes economic development in the area and enhances the student and community experience,” Martin said. “Drake is committed to working with partners who will build something that people will be proud of and is befitting of this prominent location.”
Martin also noted the impact that construction on the north side of campus is already having on recruitment efforts for students interested in STEM programs. Those improvements already have campus abuzz with the sights and sounds of growth, whereas the University Avenue project will add a new dimension of excitement for students and the surrounding community.
The site the University is immediately turning its attention to is located on the south side of University Avenue between 25th and 27th Streets, excluding First Christian Church. Most of the nearly 2.65-acre site neighboring First Christian Church has sat empty for years; it previously served as the home of Memorial Hall, which was built in 1905 and razed in 1996 due to age. Long-term plans under consideration call for assessing development possibilities elsewhere along University Avenue, with this first phase spurring future growth.
Developers will have six weeks to respond to the RFP. The University will then assess the proposals, including any necessary work to prepare the site for development. Drake will engage the neighborhood and surrounding communities throughout the RFP process to ensure the community is apprised of new developments. In the coming months, the University will lead key stakeholders through the formation of a master plan for development along University Avenue, which will take into account long-term needs for the University and its students as well as economic development for the areas surrounding campus.