Von Maur to anchor Iowa River Landing development


CORALVILLE -- An 80,000-square-foot Von Maur department store will be the retail Main Street anchor tenant for Iowa River Landing, an open-air, mixed use development in Coralville.

The  Davenport-based department store chain operates stores in Iowa City's Sycamore Mall, Lindale Mall in Cedar Rapids and College Square Mall in Cedar Falls.

If recent Corridor retail history is any guide, the future of the Von Maur store at Sycamore Mall could be in doubt.

When Coral Ridge Mall opened in 1998, JC Penney relocated from Old Capitol Mall in downtown Iowa City and Sears closed its store in Sycamore Mall. Saying he was not aware of Von Maur's plans for Iowa River Landing, Sycamore Mall Manager Kevin Digmann did not have a comment on the future of the retailer other than to confirm that "there is a lease in place."

Von Maur, which operates 25 stores in 10 states, closed its location in Cedar Rapids' Westdale Mall at the end of January 2007. It was one of the mall's original anchors when it opened in 1979.

Sycamore Mall received a seven-year tax-increment financing package in 2004 to help attract Panera Bread, renovate its movie theaters and put the retail center on sounder financial footing. Jeff Davidson, director of planning and community development in Iowa City, said the mall has taken steps to retain Von Maur as an anchor.

"The private developer of Sycamore Mall offered Von Maur a very, very favorable proposal to try and get them to remain at Sycamore Mall," Davidson said. "They have been quite aggressive in trying to keep them there, but Coralville also has been very aggressive in working to attract Von Maur, believing it will be part of the success of Iowa River Landing.

"We are hopeful that Von Maur might keep the Sycamore Mall location open, but I think realistically that is doubtful. We want to keep Sycamore Mall as viable as we can and we feel that Von Maur is part of that."

Davidson added that he doesn't think Sycamore Mall will "sink or swim" depending on whether Von Maur retains the location. 

Calls to Von Maur seeking comment regarding the future of the Sycamore Mall store were not returned.

The signing of Von Maur, an upscale regional department store chain, should help the 180-acre Iowa River Landing development at the intersection of Interstate 80 and First Avenue attract additional retail and office tenants. The Von Maur store is expected to open in about 18 months.

Earlier this year, Von Maur announced plans for its first store in Wisconsin. The $25 million, 150,000-square-foot department store will anchor Poplar Creek, a $100 million upscale open-air retail and office development in Brookfield. Wis. 

Von Maur, founded in 1872, has set itself apart from competitors such as Nordstrom and Younkers by relying on word-of-mouth promotion, interest-free credit, free shopping bags, and complimentary shipping to any location in the United States. Its stores are marked by wider aisles and pianists playing soft music.

Coralville officials and San Diego-based developer OliverMcMillan have scheduled a news conference for 9 a.m. Thursday, Sept, 22, to announce the signing of Von Maur as well as provide updates on other Iowa River Landing businesses. The latter include a 100-room Homewood Suites hotel and Backpocket Brewing, a 15,000-square-foot microbrewery.

Construction is progressing on a 150,000-square-foot University of Iowa Medical Clinic near the entrance to Iowa River Landing. The facility will focus on general internal medicine and general pediatrics and offer a wide variety of program services.

Iowa River Landing is being developed on land that was formerly zoned for industrial use. It adjoins the city-owned Coralville Marriott Hotel & Conference Center, which opened in August 2006.  

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