The Iowa Architectural Foundation is pleased to announce three recipients of its 2023 Community Enhancement Awards: Krause Group, Des Moines Film, and the Rialto Theater (Pocahontas, Iowa). 

The statewide award recognizes those individuals, organizations, agencies, or communities, outside the architectural profession, across two categories of effective leadership, vision, and support for architecture. The “Architecture and Design” category, awarded to Krause Group, honors those who have repeatedly championed the cause of architecture or acted as a benefactor of architecture and urban design. The “Historic Vitalization” category, awarded to both Des Moines Film and Rialto Theater, celebrates leadership and achievement in the realm of historic preservation or adaptation.

The 2023 winners were all chosen for their role in bettering Iowa communities through architecture. Quality architecture and urban design make communities more livable – affecting our environment, sustainability, health, culture, identity and economy. Their efforts have not only enhanced the physical landscape of the communities they serve, but have also contributed to economic development and the overall well-being of residents.

Krause Group, Des Moines 

Krause Group, a family-owned parent company of national and international businesses, boasts a sustained record of civic investment through architecture. Under the leadership of Founder and CEO Kyle Krause, the company has spearheaded multiple transformative building projects across the Des Moines metro, most notably Krause Gateway Center, designed by renowned Pritzker Prize Laureate Renzo Piano and OPN Architects. Completed in 2018 to serve as headquarters of both Krause Group and Kum & Go Corporation, which Kyle Krause led as CEO until 2021, the building is a work of architectural excellence that showcases the revitalized Western Gateway District and the city at large.

Krause Gateway Center-9 Small

The Krause Group subsidiary Krause+ has also demonstrated commitment to development efforts across the city. The renovation of the historic Crescent Chevrolet building, previously vacant but now home to Big Grove Brewery & Taproom, has provided a public anchor to the Sherman Hill neighborhood. They also have a portfolio of historic office, mixed-use, and apartment buildings in the Western Gateway District of Des Moines.


Together these efforts have exemplified the values and actions championed by the Iowa Architectural Foundation’s annual awards. In the words of Tim Hickman, AIA, “Krause Group stands alongside a minority of organizations and people in Des Moines who have created architecture at the highest level. They have not shied away from the significant challenges that effort entails. There have been moments when people have wondered if the prominence of Des Moines as an architectural center would continue; Krause has proven it will.”

Des Moines Film, Des Moines, and Rialto Theater, Pocahontas

This year’s winners of the “Historic Vitalization” category were Des Moines Film (formerly Des Moines Film Society) and the Rialto Theater.

!R3003.203.00 Varsity.Cinema1_highres

The Varsity Theater,  a staple in Drake University’s Dogtown commercial district for eight decades, ceased operations in 2018. In response, Des Moines Film, a local non-profit organization directed by Ben Godar, embarked on a four-year journey to conceptualize, coordinate, and secure $5 million in funding for its acquisition and restoration. Their efforts aimed to reintroduce this beloved establishment to a community that holds cherished memories of its heyday. Notably, the Varsity held the distinction of being the last historic theater in operation within Des Moines at the time of its closure.

“The building is more than 100 years old and so [it was] a historic preservation project first and foremost,” Godar says. “We worked with the State Historic Preservation Office to identify its key, character-defining historic features and we had to absolutely work to preserve those features.”

Beyond its historical significance, the Varsity Cinema project has cast a spotlight on the diminishing theater heritage in Des Moines, rejuvenated the Drake neighborhood commercial district, and reinstated a sense of identity and community to the area.

A similar project of smaller scale, the Rialto Theater of Pocahontas, Iowa (population 1,865) is nearly a century old and has remained in business almost continuously since 1939. When declining revenue sounded its death knell in 1985, the local community sprang into action, raising over $200,000 for renovations and reopening in 1995 as a nonprofit entity. Since then, the theater has remained successfully open for screenings, local high school stage productions and other youth programs. In the words of Erin Sommers, reporter for the local Pocahontas Record-Democrat, “To go to the Rialto is to participate in a cultural and historical experience. It’s to be a part of a community.”

rialto marquee lit up

Of special merit recently was the investment of approximately $75,000 in the building’s historic Art Deco marquee. Additionally, the past year’s renovations included new poster cases, painting of the marquee letters, and the updating of fluorescent and neon lights with LED bulbs or LED tube lighting that maintained the original look and feel. 

IAF’s jury was impressed with each nominee on its individual merits, but was also struck by how in their advocacy for historic theaters, both Des Moines Film and the Rialto Theater sustained their respective communities and inspired collective advocacy for historic buildings. Said Steve Wilke-Shapiro (Sequel Architecture), “Historic theaters in particular are an excellent community-building tool and the common threads of purpose-driven passion, historic significance, and public mission in these projects warrant the Foundation’s recognition of both nominees.”

The selection process included a statewide call for entries and selection by a jury of three, including architects Tim Hickman, AIA (Substance Architecture), Steven Wilke-Shapiro (Sequel Architecture), and Dr. Kelly Baum (Executive Director, Des Moines Art Center). The awards committee was chaired by IAF Past Chair, Jeff Shaffer, AIA (BNIM).

The winners will accept their awards at the AIA Iowa Awards Celebration on September 21st, held at Mainframe Studios.

Photo credits: 

Krause Gateway Center – Alex Michl, OPN Architects

Big Grove Brewery – Cameron Campbell, Integrated Studio

Varsity Cinema – Jacob Sharp Photo