Fort Des Moines

A recent study indicated 31% of this city’s residents are spending beyond their means for housing. The lack of affordable housing on the southeast portion of the city led to the reinvention of this former military base.  The reimagined site now houses 142 one- and two-bedroom units, all of which accommodate tenants at or below 60% of the area median income.

The site’s rich history earned it National Historic Landmark status in 1974. In World War I it served as the nation’s first African American officer training school. In World War II it housed the first Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps.

The adaptive reuse project reinvigorates six grossly neglected historic structures – four army barracks and two horse stables – into a robust, walkable neighborhood. It is the first of three phases and a catalyst for other developments in an under-valued portion of the city.

Beyond the unique opportunity to transform the historically significant buildings into an attractive and productive part of the city, several aspects make the site an excellent fit for affordable housing. These include easy access to transportation, expansive green spaces, and the capacity for future community-building phases. Stormwater bio-retention cells and an efficient geothermal heating/cooling system coexist with over 50 mature, protected trees.

The project counters the stigma associated with income-restricted housing by transforming durable, historically significant 100-year old structures into a beautiful and unique place for living.

Project Type



Des Moines, Iowa


157,051 SF (renovated)




2019 AIA Central States Design Award - Distinguished Award
2019 AIA Iowa Impact Award