Patrick Robinson
The Des Moines Theater is up for sale again. Developers Tom Lin and Isaiah Dummer could not move forward to develop the property in the way they once imagined.

The show is over; Des Moines Theater is up for sale

It was a bold move. Buy a movie theater and remake the heart of the City of Des Moines. Tom Lin and partner Isaiah Dummer bought the Des Moines Theater from the estate of the former owner last December and immediately had big plans to make it a centerpiece.

But those plans, first put on hold, are now memories. The 10,000 sq. ft plus facility on Marine View Drive has retail space in addition to the movie house. The plan was to lease out that space and use it to pay the debt on the loan. But they hit some snags. They cleaned out what proved to be a space jam packed with old equipment, cleaned up the retail spaces and theater and got it prepared for development. "The theater is ready to go now," said Lin.

But theaters today are in a state of change with so many options for entertainment. It would have meant making it ready for both film and stage use, bringing in new projection equipment, theatrical lighting, building dressing rooms and more.

Lin and Dummer in a letter to the City of Des Moines (shared exclusively with the Times/News) said, "The project is more complicated than what we are capable of accomplishing. We have just lost another tenant because of the cost involved. Potentially, only 2 out of the 3 retail spaces is leasable. The 3rd one will incur additional cost that I am not sure it is financially feasible to occupy that space.

We have tried to put our best foot forward and make it a viable project. Unfortunately our financial position and expertise does not allow us to proceed. Instead of dragging our feet further, we have decided to let other investors take a stab at it.

The only way to carry the project is to get enough income from the retail rental in order to subsidize the movie theater."

Both developers had praise for the city noting how accommodating they were with plans, and information. The city went to bat for them to secure a parking lot across the street and went the extra mile in getting permits in place. The developers had planned to bring in a pizza by the slice restaurant, a coffee shop, a frozen yogurt shop and more. But in the end the cost and complexity of moving forward proved to be too much.

Dave Kaplan, Des Moines Mayor was disappointed. He shared a letter to the developers with the Times/News.

"Tom and Isaiah,

I'm very sorry and disappointed to hear that.

We all appreciate the efforts you've made to this endeavor, as well as your kind words regarding the hard work of the City of Des Moines in trying to help make it happen.

We hope that a new purchaser can be found soon to help bring your vision to life. I think it's the right vision, and that it will eventually happen.

Also, should you find another opportunity in Des Moines that closely fits with other creative ideas you've expressed over the past few years, please don't hesitate to contact our staff, the Council or myself.

Again, thank you for your efforts.


Dave Kaplan
Mayor & Councilmember
City of Des Moines"

Michael Moore of The Moore Group, part of Coldwell Banker Bain real estate was chosen as the listing agent for the property.

The initial price is $774,995 though Lin indicated the final price would be based on what the prospective buyer intended to do with the property. See the listing information at the link above.

The text of the listing reads:

"Historic Des Moines Cinema building for sale. Fronts Marine View Drive, a downtown Des Moines main thoroughfare. Excellent mixed-use building opportunity. First run movie rights included in the sale. Space available to add retail, restaurant and second level of office or multi-family. Seller has a good working relationship with the City of Des Moines on ideas to revitalize the historical building. Space is vacant with the exception of the single-screen, operational movie theater."

So, the idea of revitalizing the center of Des Moines and making it a community hub will have to be taken up by someone else. Someone who wants to bring the story to a happy ending.

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