After years of false starts and delays, the redevelopment of Westdale Mall began Thursday with the demolition of the former Montgomery Ward building.
A crew from D.W. Zinser of Walford started taking down the Edgewood Road SW side of the building shortly after 8 a.m. The demolition is the first step in a $90 million redevelopment of the 35-year-old retail complex by Frew Development Group of Denver, Colo.
"I knew it would come down eventually," said Ron Ruggles of Cedar Rapids. "I was a Westdale shopper in the early days when it was a real mall."
As he watched the Zinser crew tearing down the front of the Montgomery Ward building, Loren Culver of Cedar Rapids remembered a very different Westdale.
"When I was growing up, Westdale was 'the mall,'" Culver said. "Lindale Mall was kind of on the decline and Westdale was the mall to go to.
"Over the years, Lindale has done a lot of upgrading and Westdale had less and less stores. Now, it's kind of the opposite of what it was in the late 1980s or early 1990s."
Frew Development plans to demolish the central portion of the mall later this spring, leaving anchors J.C. Penney and Younkers as well as the vacant former Von Maur building. The redevelopment plans call for creating a mixed use destination with retail, offices, senior housing, a hotel, banks and restaurants.
"I'm really excited about what has been proposed," Ruggles said. "It's going to be good for Cedar Rapids and the west side."
The Cedar Rapids City Council has agreed 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 the money from tax-incentive revenue that comes with the added value of the redevelopment.The City Council also agreed to extend the TIF arrangement for two additional years.