- Associated Press - Friday, October 3, 2014

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A zoning board denied a request to grant landmark status to a 57-year-old YMCA building in downtown Des Moines, creating a possibility that the highly visible riverfront structure could be demolished.

Former city councilman Jack Porter made the request for the landmark designation, saying that the building is “more than just architecture,” The Des Moines Register reported (http://dmreg.co/1vABVhv ).

“It’s culture,” he said. “It’s the history of the city.”

His request was opposed by local developers and city planners.

Rick Tollakson, president and CEO of Hubbell Realty, told the board that the building has recently been listed at $5.5 million. The group, which is handling the sale, is negotiating a purchase for it with a buyer and that the process could take another six months if the structure is given a landmark designation, he said.

If the real estate firm’s efforts fail, the landmark status would also foil the YMCA’s backup plan.

The organization secured an agreement with the Des Moines Redevelopment Corp., which agreed to purchase the building if it isn’t sold by summer 2015, said Vernon Delpesce, CEO of the YMCA of Greater Des Moines. But the contract has a condition that the structure not be a landmark.

“It will create a tremendous hardship on us,” Delpesce said, noting years of research and consideration on how to handle the deteriorating building.

City Planner Eric Lundy also said the landmark status would limit the site’s potential.

The zoning commission approved a recommendation for the City Council to seek methods of preservation and relocation of some of the building’s features, such as the mosaic on the building.

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Information from: The Des Moines Register, http://www.desmoinesregister.com

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