By Jack Mayne

Des Moines city officials on Thursday signed an agreement with Forterra to purchase a little over a half acre property located above the Des Moines Marina, with the intention of expanding the city’s parks and open spaces as well as preserving this property for permanent conservation.

The property is located at 402 S. 222nd Street (map below) in Des Moines, an historic “site of local significance” above Cliff Avenue overlooking Puget Sound which provides sweeping views of the water and the Marina floor.

The city said on Thursday night (Aug. 24) said that the property contains the former home of sawmill operator William Van Gasken. The house on the property was built in 1889, and has remained in the family until it was recently put on the market.

Des Moines identified the site for acquisition in order to preserve the property, provide additional park and open spaces in the city, and to ensure that the site was not redeveloped in a manner that would further limit public access and views of Puget Sound.

The city said Forterra will initially finance the purchase price of $1.19 million while Des Moines officials seek money from available grants. In addition to grant funding, city officials say Des Moines has allocated “park in-lieu” fees which the city has received from current development projects to cover a portion of the purchase price. State law to specific uses including the acquisition of additional park capacity limits these funds.

City officials added that no funds that could be used for ongoing structural expenses in the general fund (like additional staff), or for capital improvements – such as reconstruction of the Marina bulkhead – are being used for this purchase.

“I am extremely proud of the partnership between the City and Forterra that is resulting in the acquisition of this beautiful property,” said Mayor Matt Pina. “By purchasing this property, we will be preserving it from private development and opening it up for the citizens of this community to enjoy for generations to come.”

“All of us see how growth is accelerating in the cities around Puget Sound,” said Forterra president Gene Duvernoy. “To hold onto the beauty and livability that define the region, it’s vital that we secure keystone places like the historic Van Gasken property, which, with its setting and sweeping views, has potential to become a signature park for the people of Des Moines. We salute the vision of the city’s leaders and are proud to be a partner.”