The Beaverdale community is divided over a project at the site of the former Rice Elementary School. After months of talk, the Des Moines City Council will decide what's to become of the land on Monday night.
The site is currently being used as a soccer field and park, and at one point a group of Beaverdale neighbors tried to buy the land themselves. In the end, however, the Des Moines School District sold it to a development company, and now, the developers, neighbors and the city are trying to find a common ground.
The city's zoning commissioners support development at the site but prefer a compromise with opponents. More than 90 percent of surrounding property owners are against the project. The commission's chairman, Dann Flaherty, said the council should send back the plan, but developer Ed Boesen said that won't happen.
"This thing is going to live or die on Monday night," he said.
The school board chose Rice Partners last fall despite a petition with more than 700 signatures and a stream of vocal opposition at board meetings. A group called Save the Green mounted an 11th-hour attempt to buy the property, but the board voted in January to sell it to Boesen's group.
Beaverdale residents who once opposed development on the Rice site now say they would support limited development. Single family homes rather than row houses would be appropriate, said Richard Jewett, a member of Neighbors for Responsible Development.
"We're told that something worse could come into the site and the developer is doing the community a favor by developing this to keep something worse out. We don't know what could be worse," Jewett said.
Rice Development Partners' plan to build an $11.6 million plan an open field in Beaverdale. The plan includes office and retail space, townhomes, and apartments, modeled after the neighborhood's classic Beaverdale bricks.
Citizens for Responsible Development believes the land would be over-developed, and are standing their ground for a first victory, instead of a second defeat. "We're not a minority. We're the majority. We really want the City Council to listen to the residents this time," Kamper said.
Project developer Ed Boesen said he is excited about the design and about what the project will bring to Beaverdale, which currently has few retail options. Before the project can break ground, the land needs to be re-zoned, which is in the hands of the City Council.