Long-empty Mercy Franklin Clinic to be torn down, making way for residential, retail project

Described as both “a menace to health and safety” and “a public nuisance” by the city of Des Moines, the long-vacant and neglected Mercy Franklin Clinic has a new owner that plans to tear it down, making way for mixed-income residences and new commercial projects.

Abbey Gilroy, executive director of the nonprofit Neighborhood Development Corp., confirmed its purchase of the property at 1818 48th St. Demolition on the 3.6-acre site where the Waveland Park, Beaverdale and Merle Hay neighborhoods converge will begin in August.

Funded by the city to improve blighted commercial areas, Neighborhood Development Corp. plans a series of meetings in July and August to allow community members to say how they would like to see the property redeveloped.

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"We'd rather them tell us what they want this area to be for the next 50 to 100 years," Gilroy said. "And within a couple of years, construction will commence."

The nonprofit Neighborhood Development Corp. has purchased the vacant Mercy Franklin Clinic in Beaverdale with plans to demolish it and redevelop the property.
The nonprofit Neighborhood Development Corp. has purchased the vacant Mercy Franklin Clinic in Beaverdale with plans to demolish it and redevelop the property.

Gilroy said the residential part of the project will serve people at various economic levels.

"I think what's really important is having a mixed-income approach," she said. "It needs to be true workforce" housing.

Expecting to close on the sale in June, Gilroy has her own thoughts on the development.

"There's just tons of foliage and green space, so we want to keep that aspect," she said.

Other early proposals include the possible creation of a market, dog park and café "that people can walk from their home, come over, and grab a cup of coffee," Gilroy said.

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She also held out the possibility of further positive changes in the area. "This can be a multi-phase project. If you look all the way down that road, there's plenty of room for redevelopment," she said.

Prior owner had planned commercial, office use, condos

Vacant since 2014, the property was previously purchased in 2019 by local developer Jeff Young, owner of We Can Build It. His company sold it to Carl Tessmer in October 2021 for $556,500, according to Polk County Assessor records.

Young’s announced plans had included remodeling the first floor into commercial and office space and adding a new second story with 30 condo units.

He intended it to complement his other major project in the neighborhood, Franklin Junior High School, just across Franklin Avenue. He purchased the former school-turned-church for $2 million in 2018 with plans to convert it into a mixed-use property with a concert hall, restaurant, brewery, café, office space and a boutique hotel.

The Des Moines Register could not reach Young for comment on how the sale of the former clinic might affect his plans.

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Mercy Franklin Center.
Mercy Franklin Center.

As the property continued to sit vacant over the two years after Young bought it, city building inspections identified multiple hazards, including mold, holes in the roof, and damaged walls and ceilings.

A January 2021 city inspection report issued a 30-day warning that the building must receive immediate repairs or be demolished.

The Neighborhood Development Corp. plans to spend July conducting asbestos abatement inside the building prior to its demolition.

Built in 1962, the structure opened as the Northwest Community Hospital, Mercy Medical Center purchased the facility in 1993, renaming it the Mercy Franklin Clinic and refocusing it on adult and pediatric psychiatric care. The clinic closed in 2014.

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A former resident of the area, Gilroy described Neighborhood Development Corp. as being on the "the hunt for those next up-and-coming little commercial nodes throughout the city."

Its projects have include the La Placita on East Grand shopping plaza at the corner of East Grand Avenue and 16th Street East and and Madison Flats, a three-story, 27-unit apartment building at 1720 Indianola Ave.

Richard Lane is the real estate reporter for the Des Moines Register. He can be reached at rlane@registermedia.com.

This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Clinic where Beaverdale, Waveland, Merle Hay converge to be torn down