Von Maur is set to debut its big, new store at the Iowa River Landing a week from today.
The department store's opening represents a significant milestone for the mixed-use development that has been years in the making, cost millions of dollars, spurred tax increment financing (TIF) reform at the state capitol and has boasted a large cast of characters and key players.
The Davenport-based department store's decision to leave Iowa City's Sycamore Mall and open a new, larger location in Coralville was a controversial one. The city of Coralville offered Von Maur more than $9.5 million in TIFs to build, which caused state lawmakers, business people and members of the public to question whether the economic development tool was being misused.
“In many cases, TIF is used really as nothing more than a cash cow to finance city spending that could and should be financed in other ways,” said Peter Fisher, who studies tax and budget issues and is research director of the nonpartisan Iowa Policy Project, in January 2012 at an open forum.
"There were a lot of hard feelings," recalled Kelly Hayworth, Coralville city administrator. "It certainly could have been done better, but in the end (the new location) will be good for all of us."
Von Maur's new 85,000-square-foot store is about 60 percent larger than its old location, Hayworth said, and it will play the important role of anchor tenant.
The 180-acre Iowa River Landing has been decades in the making, Hayworth noted. The idea combined the city of Coralville's desire to revitalize an industrialized park and build a hotel and conference center.
The project already has seen a fair amount of development since its start in 2006. The Marriott Hotel and Conference Center opened in 2006, Homewood Suites built a 100-room hotel, Backpocket Brewing debuted a 15,000 square-foot facility in 2012 and the University of Iowa Heath Care clinic sees around 200,000 patients each year and soon will open a procedural suite on the fifth floor.
A number of development companies also have been involved. San Diego-based Oliver McMillan took over from DESCO Group, a commercial real estate development and management company from St. Louis, in 2008, while two other development groups worked on residential projects in Iowa River Landing.
IRL Properties, which built the Iowa Riverbend condos, 42 residential units and 22,000 square feet of commercial and retail space, also is overseeing the construction of a section of retail space dubbed Main Street, said Kevin Digmann, project coordinator. It will include Cedar Falls-based Scratch Cupcakery, men's clothing store Jos. A Bank, Charlotte's Deli and Waterstreet Coffee Bar as well as 42,000 square feet of office space.
The shops should open in late fall or early spring, and the office space is slated to open in spring 2014.
No businesses have signed on to leasing office space, Digmann said, but IRL Properties has spoken to several interested parties.
Hayworth said that about 45 percent of the retail space has commitments from tenants. Restaurant 30hop also will open in 2014.
"We're looking for those retailers that are not already here as well as a combination of locally owned and national retailers," he said.
There's still a great deal of work to be done. Construction of a $10 million intermodal hub — which will include bike parking, park-and-ride commuter program, bus service space, and office space for the Iowa Bicycle Coalition and the Coralville Transit Department — should begin later this year, Hayworth said.A Drury Inn, 60 condos and 13 townhouses, and a second University of Iowa Health Care building also will come on line in the next few years. Original plans call for a small arena and other entertainment options, but Hayworth said no progress has been made on those projects.