116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — As the former Westdale Mall continues its transformation into a mix of shops, housing, dining, offices and hotels, the developer says what’s taken shape in the 10 years since the overhaul began isn’t exactly what was originally envisioned.
But amid major disruptions, the site has grown in value and seen positive growth since its redevelopment was first envisioned in 2013, said Todd Nelson, executive vice president and chief financial officer of Frew Development Group. And only a couple years likely remain until the mall’s makeover is complete.
The $90 million transformation of the 1979-built mall, supported with city tax incentives, has taken shape amid a retail apocalypse. Disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have exacerbated the global trend of plummeting sales at brick-and-mortar retail stores that has prompted closures of many shops. And, amid the height of the pandemic in Iowa, the 2020 derecho struck.
“We’ve done those things in terms of creating value and creating density that we wanted to do, and in fact are slightly ahead of pace,” Nelson said. “We have a lot of good things happening here.”
In the pipeline, Nelson said, are 14 buildings in the next two to three years.
Home2 Suites by Hilton, an extended stay hotel, is under construction and is slated to be done in July. That’ll be the second Westdale hotel, in addition to Tru by Hilton on Westdale Parkway SW.
Crews began to move dirt this week to make way for a Boulder Tap House, the second in Cedar Rapids in addition to the one at Lindale Mall. Two buildings are being completed along Edgewood Road SW, including the new Take 5 Oil Change.
Work also is planned to start this year on a $34 million housing complex of four different buildings that will add 200 market-rate rental units — a mix of one-, two- and three-bedrooms.
Just four lots remain left to fill, Nelson said. He declined to say specifically what types of uses are being pursued there, but said it could be retail, office, restaurants, housing or hotel rooms.
“We’re really looking to finish this thing out and get these last spaces filled here, so we’re kind of in deal-making mode,” he said.
Nelson estimated the whole Westdale redevelopment will be complete within the next two to five years. Its completion depends on what offers come in, he said, adding that rising interest rates and a slowdown in the economy may put pressure on development.
Since 2013, Nelson said fewer retailers, especially big-box retailers, are expanding brick-and-mortar locations, so as Westdale’s transformation has taken shape, developers have adjusted to scale up elements such as housing with retail options being limited.
Nelson said he’s eager to see Westdale’s assessed value “continue to go north” from where it started in 2013 at $4.3 million. By 2024, he said it should be in excess of $75 million.
Cedar Rapids City Council member Scott Olson, a real estate broker, said he recognizes there’s some sentiment in the community lamenting the loss of the former enclosed Westdale Mall, but developments with entertainment complexes and a variety of new businesses are “the new reality.”
Olson said he will recuse himself from future votes on the council pertaining to Westdale’s redevelopment, as he is working with the Frew team to help recruit retailers.
Although Westdale continues to morph into something new, he said its taxable value exceeds that of Lindale Mall’s in the northeast quadrant — its success largely due to the variety of uses at the site.
He pointed to the changing nature of amenities in the urban core, with pickleball and a Big Grove Brewery taking shape at the $81.5 million mixed-use development coming online at the long-vacant corner of First Avenue W and First Street SW.
No one could have envisioned that when crafting long-term development plans, Olson said, and Westdale’s redevelopment is just another transformation that couldn’t have been predicted.
“We’re seeing the ups and downs of Westdale Mall and the ups and downs of Lindale Mall are just a reflection of what’s happening nationwide and the shopping habits and the types of services that people want to get,” Olson said.
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