- Associated Press - Friday, May 26, 2017

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Des Moines is considering a group’s proposal to build greenhouses along downtown railroad tracks as part of a long-term project that supporters say would meet demands for locally grown food and provide research space.

The Des Moines Register (https://dmreg.co/2qqVWu5 ) reported that New York architect Mario Gandelsonas and local venture capitalist Jim Cownie met with the City Council this week to discuss their plan to build the Des Moines Agricultural Corridor through downtown.

Gandelsonas helped reshape Des Moines when he laid out his vision for the city nearly 30 years ago, which ultimately led to the development of the Western Gateway, the Principal Riverwalk and resurrection of the East Village.

The new project could take 20 years to build and would likely cost tens of millions of dollars, Cownie said.

But he said the farms could meet demand for locally grown food and provide produce for area farmers markets, grocery stores and restaurants. The project could offer research space for Iowa State University students and agriculture companies, he said.

The plans also call for a pedestrian corridor along the greenhouses, with a recreational trail and landscaping.

Gandelsonas said the project is a cultural symbol that will showcase the state’s farming roots.

“The idea is not just to build a greenhouse,” Gandelsonas said. “The idea goes deeper than that. It relates to identity, to health, to education. So it is really a grand idea.”

Councilwoman Christine Hensley said she’d support the plan if the greenhouses operate as a for-profit entity that pays property taxes.

No land has been acquired and no money has yet been raised for the project.

The goal is to start with one half-acre greenhouse that is expected to cost around $5 million. Cownie said he wants the city to challenge him to raise the money and if he meets the goal, the city would then offer land for the first greenhouse for free.

If the first greenhouse is a success, then the model could be replicated down the railroad corridor if the private property along the rail line can be acquired.

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

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