116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — The closing of Hy-Vee grocery near Lindale Mall earlier this month probably isn’t a sign major changes are in store for one of Cedar Rapids’ busiest retail districts.
“There’s a great deal of shopping in that area,” said Nancy Abram, an associate professor at the University of Iowa’s Tippie College of Business. “I don’t see Lindale in the long term being that problematic.”
Abram expects the neighborhood along First Avenue and Collins Road NE will weather the closing of the Hy-Vee grocery. The building at 279 Collins Rd. NE, just west of the main mall, and its parking lot are owned by Lindale Mall’s owner Washington Prime Group.
The Columbus, Ohio-based real estate investment trust filed for bankruptcy in June 2021 but emerged in October.
“I still think that’s a pretty viable shopping hub,” Abram said. “That’s still going to be your primary shopping spot regionally because it’s been built out so much.”
“If you look at some of the new development that’s occurred across the road in recent years, the whole area’s primed for investment,” said City Council member Scott Overland, whose District 2 includes the Lindale area.
“I don’t see how the traffic is going to be impacted because one thing goes out. I think it attracts new opportunities.”
The grocery was one of four Hy-Vee stores in four states whose closing was announced in early December. Employees were offered positions at other stores in each market.
“It’s not like it’s going to be a food desert out there,” Overland said. “There’s an Aldi across the road. It’s probably likely to take care of itself in time.”
Washington Prime is seeking a new tenant for the former Hy-Vee site, according to Becky Eckley, Lindale’s general manager.
“We are always looking at new and innovative ways to make Lindale a destination, and are committed to creating a long-lasting community connection,” Eckley wrote in an email.
City spokesman Phillip Platz said Washington Prime hasn’t approached the city with plans for major changes.
“In any development, a property owner would typically initiate the planning process for their parcel,” Platz wrote in an email. “The city does not have an action plan to guide future development in that area at this time.”
Lindale currently has more than 80 year-round tenants, according to Eckley. She counted Cassill Motors, in the former Younkers space, as a seasonal tenant.
“We are focused on delivering the best experience for our guests,” Eckley wrote in an email. “While a closing may cause short-term disruption, the long-term outlook is positive as it allows us to introduce new offerings for our guests.
“Regarding potential new retailers or plans for the space, we will announce plans when we are able.”
“These are all people who are trying to meet consumer demands,” Abram said. “The consumer’s basically said, ‘We want to order online, and we don’t want to go to the mall.’”
Changes in the marketplace
That evolution of the retail landscape led to major redevelopment of Lindale’s former crosstown competitor, Westdale Mall in southwest Cedar Rapids.
A local investor group bought Westdale in 2013 and leased it to Frew Development Group, which since has been remodeling and re-casting the once-enclosed mall as Westdale Town Center.
J.C. Penney’s has remained in operation there, and U-Haul opened a branch in 2019. The site’s second hotel is scheduled to open in 2023.
“Malls closing and malls not being as relevant has been going on for 20 years,” Abram said. “This isn’t a new thing, but the pandemic has probably exacerbated things and sped up the timeline.
“We shouldn’t be so surprised about this.”
Overland believes Lindale’s owners are in a better position to respond to changes in the marketplace.
“You look at Westdale, and there was no new investment for a long time out there,” Overland said. “There is new investment continually happening” around Lindale.
And the former Hy-Vee parking lot may have potential for other use, Overland said.
“The upper third of that parking lot maybe isn’t needed and maybe there’s some vertical development that could happen,” he said. “I’m not worried about it by any stretch. It’s an opportunity for another entity to get in there.”
The area remains busy, with an average of 23,800 vehicles a day using the Collins Road-Lindale Drive NE intersection in 2017, the last year for which a traffic count is available.
Traffic volumes prompted changes to Collins Road between Northland Avenue and Twixt Town Road in a three-year project started in 2018. Designed to ease congestion and entry to shopping areas, the project widened Collins Road to three lanes and upgraded pavement and signals.
“This is a very important commercial corridor in our city for dining, shopping, and we have some important businesses there,” Nate Kampman, Cedar Rapids city engineer, said at the time. “This will make it easier to get in and out of them and make it more enjoyable to be in the area.”
The work also included improved access for cyclists and pedestrians, but hasn’t changed the area’s auto-centered nature, said Bruce Nesmith, a Coe College political science professor who studies urban design and is a founder of the Corridor Urbanists group.
“Collins Road and First Avenue are definitely car-oriented places where people need to drive,” said Nesmith. “If you’re living in apartment along Northland Avenue, you’d still better off driving.”
Billed as “one of the most luxurious shopping centers in the United States” when it opened as Lindale Plaza in September 1960, the mall lost its original anchor stores, Sears and Younkers, in 2018.
Fully enclosed in the 1980s, Lindale covers 382,907 square feet, according to the city assessor. The mall has an estimated market value of $43.6 million.
In addition to the former Hy-Vee building, Washington Prime also owns the Firestone Auto Care store on the mall’s south side.
The 140,000-square-feet former Sears anchor is owned by a subsidiary of that chain.