Regional and national developers and the investment crowd they attract are again turning their attention to Greater Des Moines, say local commercial real estate and economic development professionals who attended a convention last month in Las Vegas put on by the International Council of Shopping Centers.
The annual meeting is place where deals are made and faces are put with the voices that have made inquiries about development projects, said Steve Scott, a broker with NAI Optimum in West Des Moines.
One case in point is a project that could trigger the build-out of nearly 20 acres of land near Jordan Creek Town Center that is owned by Ryan Companies US Inc. NAI Optimum is marketing the property.
Scott said Atlanta-based developer RCG Ventures is considering a retail project of up to 85,000 square feet that would be occupied by a high-end national retailer. That project could trigger development by similar retailers in an upscale retail and lifestyle development.
"We can't name names today but there are national retailers that are very recognizable and we're getting some good traction with a lot of them," Scott said. "We're optimistic that this project is going to come together very soon."
Several factors are drawing national attention. The fact that Greater Des Moines shows up on an almost embarrassing number of "best of" lists doesn't hurt. In addition, sales per square feet at Jordan Creek Town Center is high. And, for the western reaches of the metro area, the eventual extension of E.P. True Parkway out to what will be called the Grand Prairie Parkway in West Des Moines and Waukee is going to make travel much easier for shoppers, Scott said.
All of that buzz would be good for Greater Des Moines, where retail sales have been slow to recover from the Great Recession. Read a related article at BusinessRecord.com.
Dan Dutcher, economic development director for the city of Waukee, attended the convention this year and compared the enthusiasm to a general malaise that seemed to settle over the gathering when he last attended four years ago.
"There was certainly a lot more optimism than when I was there four years ago," he said. "We certainly had a lot more people talking to us because we have a definite time frame and schedule from where an interchange is going in."
That is the interchange that will provide the connecting link between Waukee and West Des Moines and help route travelers through those communities.
Developers in the hospitality industry expressed the most Interest in Waukee and its Kettlestone development area, Dutcher said.
"We did have good response from regional and national development companies who are interested in Waukee," he said. "Unless you have an established relationship with retailers, it's difficult to get a one-on-one meeting. So we focused on meeting with developers who do have that relationship."
Developer Mike Whalen's recruitment of a national firm to build an upscale outlet mall at Prairie Crossing in Altoona also has helped generate interest in Greater Des Moines, Dutcher said.
Waukee "won't get those kinds of projects because of our proximity to Jordan Creek," he said, "but it helps to have a national development company like that come to the area, because it puts us on the map."
Other major retail projects are in the works. One that is soon to be announced is the redevelopment of the 80,000-square-foot second floor of the Sears building at Merle Hay Mall, Scott said.
"Sears is ready to get that space occupied," Scott said. "We're looking for tenants. Merle Hay Mall has been very well received."
Greater Des Moines broker Doug Siedenburg echoed the sentiment that retailers seem to have emerged from their "bleak years" and were looking for bricks and mortar locations.
"Despite the competition that the Internet brings to retailers, many still need to increase their real estate sales footage increase sales and increase their stock value," he said.