Government

Iowa City to consider hiring retail recruitment firm

Consultant would work to fill retail vacancies in the city

Iowa City Council will consider signing a contract with an Alabama retail recruitment firm that could look toward helping to fill some vacant properties in the city. Above, a customer exits the now-closed Lucky’s Market in Iowa City, in 2016. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
Iowa City Council will consider signing a contract with an Alabama retail recruitment firm that could look toward helping to fill some vacant properties in the city. Above, a customer exits the now-closed Lucky’s Market in Iowa City, in 2016. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — The Iowa City Council on Tuesday will consider hiring a retail recruitment firm with an eye on filling vacancies around the city with new businesses.

“It’s our hope that we’ll land retailers that will come into Iowa City and be new for all of us,” said Wendy Ford, the city’s economic development coordinator.

If the resolution is approved, the city would award a $45,000 contract to the Birmingham, Ala.-based Retail Strategies. The contract could be renewed at the same rate for two years, according to the proposed resolution.

There are three components to the contract.

• First, Retail Strategies will develop a market analysis of the city based on existing retail businesses, vacancies, market viability, trends and other factors.

• Second, a retail recruitment strategic plan will identify the unmet retail needs and the city’s goals for retail recruiting; highlight the city’s strengths, weaknesses and opportunities; identify potential retail prospects and potential sites for future retail development; and identify actions the city can take to enhance its marketability to potential retailers.

• Third, the firm will be responsible for recruiting retailers and restaurants, representing the city at regional and national retail conferences and marketing the community to retailers.

“Basically they’re relationship building ... (and) building the case for retailers to come to Iowa City,” Ford said. “That doesn’t necessarily happen in six months’ times. That has to be an ongoing thing.”

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Ford said the impetus for hiring a retail recruitment firm was the former vacancies on Highway 6 where the Kmart building once sat empty.

“There was some concern with some of those properties that they might languish vacant for a while,” she said.

While the Kmart building no longer is vacant, Ford said there are vacancies in other commercial areas throughout the city.

“It’s important to keep the properties filled with tenants to serve the neighborhood,” Ford said.

Ford said the market analysis likely will take a couple months. From there, the consultants will work with key retailers, developers and property owners about the kind of retail and restaurants they’d like to see in the city.

Armed with that information, the firm then will work to bring new retailers to the community.

One vacant property that could benefit from the consultant’s work is the former Lucky’s location in the Iowa City Marketplace, which closed in March after three years.

“We’re hoping the work of this retail consultant will contribute to getting a new tenant into that space,” Ford said.

• Comments: (319) 398-8238; lee.hermiston@thegazette.com

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