Editor’s note: Business leaders and local officials involved in the redevelopment of the Crossroads Mall into Corridor Plaza will feature the latest information on the project in a series of occasional articles that will appear in The Messenger. This is the first of these stories.
In March 2020, Crossroads Plaza Development LLC purchased the former Crossroads Mall property for $3.3 million. A few days later, COVID-19 forced malls to close.
“Hindsight is always 20/20,” said BJ Stokesbary, spokesperson for the Corridor Plaza redevelopment team. “But even with the hurdles we’ve faced over the past two years, we wouldn’t change the decision to start this mall redevelopment journey into a new era of retail and community space where people come shopping, dining and playing. ”
The Messenger published an article titled “New future envisioned”one of the first announcements of the offer to purchase the mall property from former owners, Namdar Realty Group, Mason Asset Management and CH Capital, all of Great Neck, New York.
Demolition of the former Sears store, which opened in 1964 and closed in 2015, began days later and was completely razed by the end of the month.
The Fort Dodge City Council has approved a development agreement with Crossroads Plaza Development, LLC. Funding of $18.2 million is committed to the project through Tax Increment Financing (TIF).
What is Tax Increment Financing (TIF)?
TIF helps cities and counties fund public improvement projects or provide economic development grants or loans to private entities. Funds secured through the TIF must be used within the specific designated area and cannot be used for general city or county operations.
TIF funds, in simplified terms, come from increased property tax revenue created in the TIF area. This does not diminish the existing tax base, and once the TIF period is over, the “New” base will go to the normal taxing bodies.
Mayor Matt Bemrich noted in the November 2019 article, “To me, this is absolutely the perfect pitch to show how TIF is meant to be used.”
The $3.3 million purchase of the former Crossroads Mall closes Friday, March 13, 2020. Four days later, Governor Kim Reynolds limits social gatherings to 10 or fewer and temporarily closes many businesses, including restaurants. bars, restaurants and casinos. Less than three weeks later, the closures extend to libraries, bowling alleys and shopping malls.
“We really didn’t know what to expect at the time,” said Stokesbary. “I think we all thought it would be over in a few weeks. It certainly caused some uncertainty.
The Fort Dodge Plan and Zoning Commission unanimously proposes a zoning change to allow for a multiple-use site.
The zoning change goes before the city council and is approved without debate.
Demolition begins on the former JC Penney store.
The announcement is made that 60,000 square feet of the mall will be redeveloped into a strip mall instead of being demolished.
“At the time, we were faced with what seemed like an endless increase in new construction costs,” said Stokesbary. “That’s when we went back to the drawing board and said, ‘how can we make this affordable for tenants?’ Brick-and-mortar retail was facing nearly three-quarters of a pandemic at this point. We made tough decisions and unfortunately lost tenants who had been part of the mall for decades. 2020 has been a roller coaster, that’s for sure.
In another effort to keep retailers in town, a business relocation proposal is drawn up.
The Fort Dodge City Council approves support for an application to be submitted for the Iowa District Reinvestment Program, seeking $18 million in state funding for the Corridor Plaza project.
The forgivable loan program is approved by the city council for businesses that leave the mall and relocate to Fort Dodge. The council has set aside $150,000 for the program. Forgivable loan criteria include reopening within one year of moving. Half of the loan must be canceled on the first anniversary of the reopening and the second half on the second anniversary.
According to Vickie Reeck, director of community and economic development for the town, “Six former mall tenants took advantage of the city’s relocation assistance program. Each business was eligible for up to $10,000 to help defray the costs of moving and opening their business in a new location.
Fort Dodge receives notice that the city’s request for the Iowa Reinvestment District for $18 million in state funding has been advanced for final review. Of the 10 applications submitted, six proceed to the next stage, which includes an in-person interview with Iowa Economic Development Authority staff and selection committee.
A ribbon cutting officially opens the new sections of South 27th Street and Second Avenue South.
Fort Dodge is announced as one of six applicants to receive bridge funding under Iowa’s District Reinvestment Program.
“Receiving $17 million of the $18 million we requested means we received the highest allocation percentage of any project considered,” said Stokesbary.
Bemrich said, “We’ve seen our retail environment evolve and we’re working to adapt to it, and I think the plan we came up with has been recognized at the state level today.”
UnityPoint Express Clinic opened as a walk-in clinic. Leah Glasgo, President and CEO of UnityPoint Health – Fort Dodge said: “It is a great honor and privilege to be part of the growth of our community. We know how important it is to us to be part of the economic engine of Fort Dodge and so we are honored to be here and to be the first location to open in Corridor Plaza.
Discount Tire opens along Fifth Avenue South.
Two new tenants that will open in 2022 are announced – Teriyaki Madness and Clean Laundry.
The restaurant offers teriyaki dishes made to order with high quality ingredients like all-natural marinated chicken, steak, salmon or tofu with sautéed vegetables and steamed white, brown or fried rice or Yakisoba noodles . The restaurant will offer in-store dining as well as curbside delivery or pickup through its mobile app.
Dining options are also available with Teriyaki bars – including your choice of one protein, two bases, and sautéed vegetables. Bowls and a la carte dishes are also available.
Clean Laundry has laundromats across the United States, including five locations in Iowa – Cedar Rapids, Des Moines, Iowa City, Ottumwa and Waterloo – the company’s headquarters.
The chain now has 31 locations, with 10 more under lease like Fort Dodge.
“We will be hiring a manager closer to opening, as well as five to seven employees,” said Phil Akin, owner of Clean Laundry.
The space will utilize brand new, state-of-the-art touchscreen laundry equipment made in the USA. The machines will work with debit cards, credit cards or phone payments, allowing customers to see which machines are available from anywhere on their mobile device. The stores will also feature “clean hospital” facilities with charging stations for guest devices, vending equipment and free Wi-Fi.
“Fort Dodge is a retail center for North Central and Northwestern Iowa”, said Chad Schaeffer, the city’s director of development. “For us to continue to be the mall, it’s so important to redevelop this site.”
“It has been a series of roadblocks and triumphs,” said Stokesbary. “We are pleased to see successful moves for retailers like Riddle’s Jewelry, Sears Hometown, The Buckle and others. We hate to see some retailers leaving our market. Ultimately, this project is a long-term investment at Fort Dodge, and we know the best is yet to come.