CORALVILLE — Von Maur opens its doors today at Coralville’s Iowa River Landing. The new 80,000-square-foot store boasts three times the amount of fitting rooms, new brands and more space than its prior location in Iowa City’s Sycamore Mall.
The 20,000 square feet of additional space makes room for amenities the old location was unable to offer, said Jim von Maur, the company’s president. New features include higher ceilings, more seating and a women’s lounge with a seating area, mother’s room and large women’s restroom.
“(The store) has open air, is well lit and it’s just more shoppable,” he said.
The Coralville location also has a spacious center court, where customers can sit and listen to the melodies of the pianist playing a black piano — a signature feature at each one of the Davenport-based company’s department stores.
“(Iowa) is where we started,” Von Maur said. “So all the stores here are on the older side. I think customers will be surprised and excited at our stores’ newer looks.”
Although Von Maur’s opening marks a significant milestone for Iowa River Landing, its decision to leave Sycamore Mall and open a larger location in Coralville was a controversial one. The city of Coralville offered Von Maur more than $9.5 million in tax increment financing to build, which caused state lawmakers, business people and members of the public to question whether the economic development tool was being misused.
But von Maur said the company has put those disagreements behind it.
“Those who were originally upset, have moved on,” he said. “Anyone still with hurt feelings, their perceptions will change once we’re open. They’ll understand why we did it.”
Each of the 70 full-time and part-time associates employed at the Sycamore Mall location made the move to Iowa River Landing, said Amy Davis, advertising manger for Von Maur, adding the department store anticipates the need to hire additional staff.
Iowa River Landing progress
Von Maur is playing the important role of anchor store at the Iowa River Landing. The 180-acre mixed use site has already 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.
But the development still needed a retail store to attract high volumes of shoppers. That’s where Von Maur comes in.
“We have a track record of going into a shopping center that isn’t doing well and helping revitalize it or going into a new market where they’re counting on us to bring in foot traffic,” Von Maur said.
There’s still a fair amount of work to be done at Iowa River Landing. The construction of a section of retail and office space dubbed Main Street is under way.
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.
Von Maur is a 140-year-old company that operates 27 stores spread across 11 states, including five stores in Iowa, as well as its corporate headquarters and e-commerce facility in Davenport. But von Maur said its presence is growing.
In addition to the Coralville store, the company is opening department stores in Birmingham, Ala., and Rochester, N.Y., this year, with another store opening in Oklahoma City in 2014. This will be a new market for each of the these stores.
Von Maur said the company would like to open one to two stores a year, but isn’t tied to that number.
“We’re very opportunistic,” he said. “But it depends on the amount of open space.”
Davis said the new Coralville store has aesthetic updates and new layouts in each of its departments, more lighting, a room dedicated to shoe clearance and a much larger children’s area with wider aisles to push strollers through and a life-size, friendly-faced tree for children to play with while their parents shop.
More space means more merchandise to choose from. Davis said new vendors include Kate Spade, Dr. Marten and Donald Pliner shoes, Rebecca Minkoff handbags and Simon Sebbag jewelry.
It’s also easier to navigate, she said. “(The Coralville store) is more consistent with our new locations. The segmented feel at Sycamore Mall was the byproduct of an expansion,” she said.
Von Maur is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 6 p.m.
TASTE OF IOWA RIVER LANDING
• In celebration of Von Maur’s opening, Iowa River Landing restaurants are hosting a free Taste of the Iowa River Landing event from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., in a tented area just south of Von Maur.
• Participating restaurants include Backpocket Brewing, Edgewater Grille, Vesta, Konomi, Charolotte’s, Scratch Cupcakery and Waterstreet Coffee Bar. Each will offer a variety of appetizers and sample foods and beverages from their menus.• Von Maur shoppers will experience live music, children’s entertainment and in-store giveaways, including a drawing for a $1,000 shopping spree.