The Iowa Economic Development Authority awarded $3.4 million in historic preservation tax credits Thursday to aid ongoing renovation of the historic Val Air Ballroom in West Des Moines, part of a $25.4 million allotment to 15 projects across the state.
Owner Sam Summers is in the midst of a $14.5 million top-to-bottom revamp of the 84-year-old venue at 301 Ashworth Road in West Des Moines. In September, Gov. Kim Reynolds awarded the project $1 million from the Destination Iowa fund, created with part of Iowa’s federal allocation in the American Rescue Plan Act.
West Des Moines gave Summers a 10-year, $1.1 million tax rebate and $72,000 grant in January. In exchange, Summers agreed to finish renovations by Dec. 31, have a $5.5 million minimum assessed value for the circa-1939 building and retain 14 full-time employees.
Summers, organizer of the annual Hinterland Music Festival in St. Charles and owner of music venue Wooly’s in the East Village, bought the Val Air in 2021. Plans for the restoration include new electrical and plumbing systems and fire sprinklers, modifications to comply the Americans with Disabilities Act, a bar and grill in the basement, two new bathrooms on the first floor and a steel structure above the stage to hold cables, motors and lights so artists can use screens and other stage elements.
When finished, the renovation will return the venue to close to what it looked like during its prime in the 1950s. Summers, who already has hosted artists including Jack White and Jason Isbell at the Val Air, has said that when the venue reopens he hopes the changes will deepen the variety of talent frequenting the Des Moines music scene.
“Really just being able to service the artist and the market at every level is something that’s super important to me,” Summers said in January. “I think this 2,500-(capacity) club is going to be an important piece of the puzzle. We’re moving closer and closer to having everything covered here.”
Drake’s Meredith Hall, Concord Apartments get tax credits, too
Two other projects in Des Moines got Historic Preservation Tax Credits from the IDEA.
Drake University received $3.2 million for its renovation of Meredith Memorial Hall. Designed by modernist architecture pioneer Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and dedicated in 1965, it houses Drake’s School of Journalism and Mass Communications. Renovations to the building include a new heating and air conditioning system, lighting and ceiling, exterior painting, and improvements to technology and auditorium seating.
The more-than century-old Concord Apartments building at 740 18th St. in Sherman Hill was awarded $1.2 million towards its ongoing renovations.
In a news release, IEDA Executive Director Debi Durham said the projects awarded tax credits will “enhance historic buildings across the state.”
“The revitalization projects create distinctive spaces with historic charm that also support the needs of Iowa’s communities to attract people to visit, live and work,” Durham said.
This article first appeared the Des Moines Register