This summer, Stacie Phillips has been hard at work bringing something back in the Capitol Park neighborhood on Des Moines’ East Side. At the immediate level, she’s been working bring back a porch that historically would have been on the front of a home on East 13th Street. Or getting those bathroom walls adjusted so they will be back in square. Or a thousand other things.
But more than that, Phillips has been getting a 955 square foot 1916 home ready for its next owners, one of three where she is now completing renovations on the same block. People are noticing – a sale is already pending on this latest house after only days on the market.
“These three in a row have such an impact because they’re so visible driving by on University or walking down to East High School. It helps people get thinking and talking about what their neighborhood could look like,” Phillips said.
And looking out from the house, it’s hard not to see the potential. Many homes in Capitol Park were constructed between 1900 and 1920. Homes in the area are among the city’s oldest, but fortunately their basic design and construction makes them able to be renovated and kept up for today’s homeowners.
That’s where Phillips is engaged, selecting and renovating some of the area’s most troubled properties then remodeling them for sale on behalf of Community Housing Initiatives, a nonprofit working in the area as part of the Viva East Bank! Initiative.
She purchased this home through a tax sale, and it looked like the previous owners left quickly. Trash was strewn about and an abandoned car sat out back. It’s exactly the kind of situation Phillips is looking for when she gets to work.
As a whole, Capitol Park is a neighborhood that’s learned to bounce back more than once. Many parts of the neighborhood have views of the State Capitol Building, right to the south, but the construction of Interstate 235 made that building—and downtown—feel much farther away. Investment and growth in the city started flowing west down the freeway.
Today, elevated contract sales of homes and higher vacancy rates than other neighborhoods are some of the signs of stress in Capitol Park’s housing market. Yet at the same time, downtown Des Moines and the nearby East Village are experiencing a dramatic resurgence, prompting hopes for an economic revival in neighborhoods like Capitol Park.
Working on the houses, Phillips is literally touching the history around her. Several people, including past owners of her properties, have stopped by to check on her progress on East 13th. That visible location is helping people see the progress.
“I think they’ve been waiting for it, and maybe they haven’t been sure it was going to happen. I think there’s a surprise element to it,” Stacie said.
Capitol Park is one of the city’s youngest and most diverse neighborhoods. It’s full of families. It’s a relatively affordable place to live. The restaurants are great. Scarlet pride at East High School burns as bright as ever.
Listed at $115k, Phillips latest house is perched on the market as a great starter home. It won’t be there long, with its hardwood floors all new kitchen, and two car garage.
Phillips feels the same excitement about the neighborhood. People are looking at Capitol Park with a fresh set of eyes.
“It’s going to be a process and certainly we want to see people who already live here, who are already invested, being included in the neighborhood’s progress, not left out. With our partners, we are working on that part too. But as this happens, there’s opportunity here, and that’s exciting.”