Des Moines hopeful eyesore near downtown will be cleared

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A sprawling former industrial site on the edge of downtown Des Moines would be transferred to city ownership and prepared for future development under a plan that officials announced Thursday.

The City Council will vote Monday on whether to join a consent decree that if approved by the U.S. District Court would eventually lead to the transfer of the 43-acre Dico property to the city.

For 25 years, the site bordered by the Raccoon River and a key city boulevard has been vacant, frustrating city boosters who have been embarrassed about the deteriorating, rusting buildings so close to an area being transformed with new housing and offices. Development proposals have been complicated by soil contamination left after manufacturing and other uses at the site, blamed for the presence of cancer-causing chemicals found in the city's water supply.

The contamination and needed cleanup have been the subject of extended litigation between Titan International Inc. — the parent company of manufacturers Dico and Titan Tire Corp. — and the Environmental Protection Agency.

If the city and then the court approve the deal, Dico and Titan will pay $11.5 million to the EPA and give the property to the city of Des Moines. The city will operate a groundwater treatment system, which will be upgraded by the EPA, and work with the EPA on future uses.

City Manager Scott Sanders told the Des Moines Register it's unclear how the property will be developed.

“It’s just incredibly important visually to get those buildings down, and then we can talk about what the future development would be,” he said.