JUNE 9, 2015, BY REID CHANDLER
DES MOINES, Iowa – A project to transform a former CenturyLink office space along Keosaqua Way in downtown Des Moines into a studio space for local artists is moving forward.
Monday, city council members heard a first consideration of an ordinance to rezone the building from a “General Retail and Highway Commercial” property to a “Central Business District Commercial” property, allowing it to undergo a transformation into artist studio space and assembly/exhibit space.
Justin Mandelbaum of Mandelbaum Properties in West Des Moines founded the non-profit, DesMoinesArts, with the hope of fostering the artistic culture in Des Moines. For the past five years, he’s been searching for a place to house his non-profit, and purchased the former four-story CenturyLink building at 900 Keo Way downtown for $2 million last fall.
His plan is to lease about 187 studio spaces for artists to utilize for their work. In a study his group conducted, over 400 local artists expressed a need for something like the “art incubator,” and Mandelbaum hopes to see a central-location for many of the Metro’s artists help the community thrive.
“It’s all about making Des Moines a really attractive place to live, work, and play,” he said. “The corporations here certainly care, because it attracts the creative class and expands their talent pool. And those who already live in Des Moines should care because it makes life more exciting for us.”
Mandelbaum expects to lease out the first floor of the building to local artists by the end of 2015, expanding upward over the course of about three years. He says the goal is to keep these spaces affordable: a 350-square-foot space should run around $200 per month in rent, plus utilities. Additionally, Mandelbaum says he hopes this incubator will compliment the services offered down the street at the Des Moines Social Club, where artists already rent space to showcase their work.