Young Professionals Parking lot at Fourth Street and Court Avenue. (Juice file photo)

Parking lot at Fourth Street and Court Avenue. (Juice file photo)

Would YPs use a downtown grocery store?

Published on February 18th, 2014 | by Josh Hafner

Out of the five development plans announced last week for the parking lot at Fourth Street and Court Avenue, the proposal for a grocery store — the longtime plea of vocal downtowners — may have generated the most buzz when we asked for your feedback.

The Des Moines City Council received proposals on Feb. 7 and may vote to move forward with one by month’s end.

Juice readers who live downtown said the offer of groceries in their neighborhood would be a worthwhile convenience, even if the smaller 35,000 square foot location offered less variety than larger grocery stores within driving distance.

Peter Hosch, Hy-Vee’s assistant vice president for store development and real estate, told The Des Moines Register that the company has wanted a downtown location for years. So has Jennifer Joanning.

“I’ve been saying for a while I would kill for even a smaller, limited-option version of Hy-Vee since that’s my preferred store,” Joanning, 34, wrote to Juice, “somewhere I can grab the basics.”

Joanning, an advertising professional, moved downtown two years ago. She often shops at Hy-Vee stores because of the chain’s fuel saver program, she said, but finds herself hauling groceries back from the chain’s Southridge Mall location (a 12-minute drive from downtown) or the one on Fleur Drive (10 minutes away).

If completed it would be Hy-Vee’s first downtown location in any city. It would also be its first topped with apartments: 60 market-rate units were announced in the proposal from Knapp Properties.

Jason Less, a 31-year-old accountant who lives in downtown’s Mulberry Lofts, moved to Iowa from Minneapolis last summer. While living up north, Less encountered Lunds, a Minneapolis-based grocery chain with several urban locations, including one downtown.

“These urban-designed grocery stores are all similar in size to the proposed Hy-Vee,” Less said, including a coffee shop and a bakery.

A downtown grocery store would have to avoid two potential pitfalls, in Less’ view: Having too little parking and too high of prices. Each Hy-Vee store director sets the location’s prices, spokeswoman Chris Friesleben said, so the price of a gallon of milk at a downtown Hy-Vee may differ from the one on Fleur Drive.

“We would expect the store director would be competitive,” Friesleben said.

Downtown veteran Matthew Carroll moved to the area as a young professional seven years ago. Carroll, now 42, said he’s seen the rapid transformation of downtown over those years, but worries his neighborhood is running out of space to fit a grocery store he calls much-needed.

“The fact that Hy-Vee is even considering (the store), it means they’re thinking about the direction downtown is heading,” he said.

Other development proposals for the 2.3-acre lot owned by the city include:

  • Two buildings with 160 apartments, 363 parking stalls and 20,350 square feet of retail space by Hubbell Realty.
  • A 124-unit apartment complex and parking garage featuring an indoor farmers market space by Sherman and Associates.
  • A five-story building with 180 apartments, a parking garage and 15,000 square feet of commercial space by the Opus Group.
  • An entertainment complex with a 12-screen luxury movie theater and a 582-stall parking garage attached by Mandelbaum Development.

About the Author

covers young professionals for The Des Moines Register. Josh can be reached at or on Twitter via @joshhafner.

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