Westdale developer wants to add two more years to TIF agreement

Demolition on Cedar Rapids' mall could start in mid-January

Rick Smith
Published: December 16 2013 | 4:15 pm - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 12:56 am in
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The several-month delay in the start of the Westdale Mall transformation is prompting developer Frew Development Group to seek an amendment to its economic-incentive agreement with the City Council.

If approved, demolition on parts of the existing mall should begin in mid-January, John Frew, president and CEO of Frew Development Group, said in a letter this month to the city.

At Frew’s request, the council on Tuesday will consider extending the length of the agreement approved in May from 12 to 14 years. During that time, 100 percent of the growth in property-tax revenue that results from the new investment in the Westdale property will be used to pay for infrastructure improvements on the site.

This incentive, called tax increment financing (TIF), is the principal economic-development tool used by Cedar Rapids and other cities in Iowa.

Frew Development initially had sought to extend the TIF arrangement for three additional years, according to a city staff report to the council.

The City Council also is planning on Tuesday to provide $5 million in upfront money for use by the Westdale project, as called for in the existing development agreement between the city and the developer. The city will recoup this money from TIF revenue that comes with the added value of the redevelopment.

According to the staff report to the council, the $5 million can be used to demolish existing buildings, realign the existing ring road on the property, install supporting utilities, construct public spaces and new buildings and make site improvements.

In its agreement with the city, Frew Development has said it will invest at least $90 million to transform Westdale Mall into a community with retail, residential, office, restaurant and entertainment components as well as senior housing, a hotel and medical offices.

Three of the mall’s anchor buildings will remain — those now occupied by Younkers and J.C. Penney and the building that used to house Von Maur.

Frew Development had anticipated beginning work in the early summer of 2013 by demolishing the former Wards anchor store, but a lease disagreement with J.C. Penney delayed the project.

In a letter dated Dec. 9 to the city, John Frew of Frew Development Group said "challenges" on the Westdale project "have been resolved" and the company is prepared to begin demolition work in mid-January 2014.

The "certainty of moving forward is no longer in doubt," Frew said.

He said that any future approval of aspects of the project by J.C. Penney will be limited to the area immediately adjacent to the Penney building.

The proposed amendment to the city’s May 2013 agreement with Frew also calls for the Westdale project on 72 acres to have 1 percent more open space, 1 percent more hard surfaces, a 5 percent reduction in buildings and a 5 percent increase in parking, including a one-story ramp.

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