Helping hand Featured

8:00pm EDT June 25, 2010
Lifetime Achievement

William C. Knapp is an entrepreneur and philanthropist who started with nothing. His humble childhood created a driven nature and a near inability to say no when asked to help those who are in need.

In 1952, he purchased a real estate company and renamed it Iowa Realty. His company grew continuously from 1955 on and dominated the local real estate market as the No. 1 selling agency for nearly 40 years. Under Knapp’s leadership, Iowa Realty became the largest real estate company in the state.

As the redevelopment of downtown Des Moines evolved in 1976, Knapp became a key player, and while one building after another was added to the Des Moines skyline, he looked beyond the shadows cast by this new face to nearby deteriorating neighborhoods.

In 1985, Drake University President Michael Ferrari sought Knapp’s help in arresting the decline around campus. Plans for apartments, a restaurant and a hotel were drawn up, and Knapp found the investors.

While that project was breathing life back into the Drake neighborhood, Bill turned his attention to developing a new site for the Bethel Mission and raised money to build the Homes of Oakridge Community Center, the Tiny Tots Day Care Center and a YWCA.

In 1984, Bill Knapp sold 80 percent of Iowa Realty to Central Life Insurance Co. (now AmerUs Life). In 1989, he sold the remaining 20 percent.

Following the sale of Iowa Realty, Knapp formed Knapp Properties Inc. and currently serves as its chairman emeritus. Knapp Properties primarily oversees the real estate management, development, sales and acquisitions of his personal holdings. Since its founding in 1992, Knapp Properties has become Des Moines’ premier development and management company.

How to reach: Knapp Properties Inc., (515) 223-4000 or