116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Over the past few years, an uncomfortable trend has emerged in Iowa City’s south district. Retailers have left in droves: from Lucky’s and Kmart to Tuesday Morning and stores at the IC Marketplace. While the reasons made sense for the retailers, the impact on this part of town has been difficult, to say the least. To buy softgoods, our options are severely limited: Waterfront Hy-Vee, consignment shops and online delivery. Yes, I and many others buy socks at the Hy-Vee. Their regional analysis saw this gap and filled it. Next to the sliced cheese, you will find a limited selection of socks, winter gear and miscellaneous shirts. I am grateful Hy-Vee stocks these softgoods, but what does this say about priorities for the south district?
We are a diverse and large neighborhood that offers a ready consumer base for retail. Shopping trends overall have moved away from big box stores, but for essentials, it remains helpful to try on clothes, access dry good options and have choices. To do that, we must travel across town to Walmart or spend our dollars in Coralville. This takes time even when using personal transportation and is exceptionally difficult — even insulting — for those using public transportation.
We must continue to grow Iowa City in economically sound and inclusive ways. Strengthening retail for the south district is an obvious way to do that: dry goods, restaurants, a Newbo-type market at the IC Marketplace? Yes. Otherwise, as Iowa City grows, this district runs the real risk of being a pass-through area, populated only with mega-convenience stores, self-storage and an empty mall. Rezoning in Pepperwood Plaza will create a few small retail storefronts, and it is a move in the right direction. Let’s keep it moving. It matters for equity, economy and community.
Megan Alter is a candidate for Iowa City Council.