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Biz Buzz: State Grant Helps East Village Revival

Two generations of downtown movers and shakers—Jim Cownie and Tim Rypma—are teaming up to build the next big project in the East Village. (Editor's Note: Tim Rypma is a current member of the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center Alumni Board at the university.)

The two are the main players in East Village Growth Partners, which was awarded a $3 million grant from the state to develop vacant city land at 350 E. Locust St. They plan to build a $7.9 million, five-story building that will include 6,100 square feet of retail space and 20 apartments.

The building’s penthouse will become Cownie’s new offices. The diehard Republican said the fifth floor will be a separate project and not funded by taxpayer money. He plans to move his offices from the Temple for Performing Arts, 1011 Locust St.

Investors, including Cownie and Bill Knapp, will put $800,000 into the project. Cownie already owns an adjacent parking lot.

Rypma, who lives in the East Village and owns several buildings there, has been a key player in the area’s revival.

The 33-year-old said he grew up near Cownie, 68, and is friends with his children. He pitched Cownie the idea of developing the vacant land, which they will pay the city $400,000 to buy.

The site has been a puzzle for the city and for developers, because it was considered too small and too expensive to improve. Rypma said the $3 million in state disaster recovery funding made the project viable.

East Village Growth Partners beat out another Des Moines project—Jack Hatch’s 6th Avenue Brickstones—to receive the Iowa Economic Development Authority grant.

The apartments will be half market rate and half income-restricted. Rypma said tenants must make no more than 60 percent below the median income, which is less restrictive than other downtown projects. Many would-be downtown apartment dwellers have found they are being priced out of the market because they make too much.

Rypma plans to begin construction by Oct. 1 and finish in 10 months. For the first floor, he’s looking for three or four retailers, such as a boutique, restaurant, or other entertainment business, that would complement the East Village, he said.

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