The Hawthorn Grove is scrappy.
Located along the railroad tracks in the southeast bottoms, it’s home to a smattering of abandoned houses and long-forgotten cars. Its most prominent attraction: a recently renovated used car and salvaged auto parts lot.
On first blush it is easy to see why the city of Des Moines has picked it as the site for a new public works storage yard.
But nestled among the industrial sheds and chain link fences is a small stone church at the corner of Southeast 15th and Shaw streets.
Last week, the Rev. Jordan P. Rabon and Jamel Kirby stood outside King of Kings Missionary Baptist Church trying to decide when to tell the congregation about the city’s plans to use eminent domain to take the church’s property. The men fear it could spell the end of their flock.
“God-fearing people are going to go to church on Sunday, and if we’re not here, they’re going to go somewhere else,” said Kirby, the church’s treasurer.
The Des Moines City Council initiated eminent domain proceedings April 17 for 57 properties south of Scott Avenue and east of Southeast 15th Street. The city plans to build a $70 million municipal services center on 19 acres there to house public works equipment and other pieces of large machinery.
The city’s Public Works Department is currently located along four blocks in the burgeoning Market District, south of East Court Avenue and the East Village. City leaders are anxious to move the department’s assortment of vehicles and equipment to make way for businesses development in the up-and-coming area.
“We have plenty of private developers interested,” Matt Anderson, assistant city manager, said during a meeting last month.
Federal officials also are considering a portion of city-owned land near the public works facility for a $137 million courthouse. An announcement on where it will go is expected by the end of summer.
Construction on the new public works facility could begin as early as this year, but that depends on how willing and ready property owners are to move out of Hawthorn Grove.