In 2013 Blackbird Investments was formed by partners Justin Doyle, Harry Doyle, Ryan Doyle, TJ Jacobs, and Hugh O’Hagan. Blackbird Investments believes that transforming buildings can change not only the structure but also the surrounding community. Their projects are located throughout Iowa and range from new construction to adaptive reuse to historic renovation. At its core, developer work is about the development of good relationships with others: local government, engineers, contractors, and a strong developer-architect relationship. Blackbird Investments sought this property in the Market District (Lower East Village) of Des Moines and saw its adaptive re-use as an ongoing benefit to the community.
At the project’s inception, the district was a deteriorated industrial neighborhood and largely overlooked. However, the developers appreciated the building’s historical significance and grasped its capacity to spark neighborhood revitalization. As the first to invest in the area, the clients capitalized on the opportunity to set a high bar for surrounding development and pave the way for impactful design. The team set the lofty goal of LEED-Platinum status to invigorate its historic context and provide a modern work environment through eco-friendly means. It was to be the state’s first commercial building to produce more energy than it consumes, and it should retain much of the original building’s fabric and feel, with work environments faithful to the 1901 facility’s open warehouse floors.
Des Moines, Iowa
55,000 SF (renovated)
2018 AIA Iowa Craft Award
2016 AIA Iowa Design Award
2016 IIDA Great Plains Chapter Award
2015 AIA Central States Design Award
Where We Started
The building nestles in a prime location in the city's master plan. A planned green belt and pedestrian trail will soon pass the building’s main entry to the north, balanced by a proposed civic building and park to the south. Also envisioned is a future Amtrak station.
Since there is no more sustainable act than breathing new life into an existing resource, we resolved to comprehensively integrate sustainable strategies and rigorous design in the charismatic existing structure, maintaining the buildings original character and appearance wherever feasible.
What We Did
There is no more sustainable act than breathing new life into an existing resource. This LEED Platinum redevelopment integrates comprehensive sustainable strategies and rigorous design into a charismatic existing structure, maintaining the building’s original character and appearance.
The project achieves a rich, nuanced dialogue between new and old. In some locations, the two are carefully delineated. In others, modern interventions blend in and take a backseat to historic character. Throughout the building, transparency and compatible finishes allow space to flow freely. To maintain the large volumes’ spatial continuity, the design locates new enclosed areas at the building’s core and terminates their walls well below the ceiling plane. Extensive glass and poly-carbonate interior partitions allow light penetration deep into the building and maintain open visual connection throughout each floor level.
We comprehensively specified local, sustainable, and durable materials. Existing materials were retained or re-purposed, diverting an overwhelming amount of materials from the waste stream and fostering a high-quality environment with long-term positive impact.
How it Works
The project achieves a rich, nuanced dialogue between new and old. In some locations, the two are carefully delineated. In others, modern interventions blend in and take a backseat to historic character. Throughout the building, transparency and compatible finishes allow space to flow freely.
The approach exemplifies how new technologies can be integrated into old structures, retaining original character while drastically improving energy efficiency. The combination of geothermal and solar renewable energy sources allows this project to qualify for NetZero energy certification.
Since the building’s completion, increasing investment in the area has followed this building’s lead in respecting the existing fabric. And, though many of the building’s sustainable features are so integrated as to be unnoticeable, the public’s positive reception of the building’s solar panel array has sent a palpable signal to other developers. The design provides carpool and electrical vehicle parking as well as bike parking, storage, and showers. Within one half mile there are many retail, restaurant and park offerings. A planned walking/biking trail that links to a regional network will render pedestrian commutes even easier.