Dennis Albaugh did something a few weeks ago that hasn't happened often over the 12 years his DRA Properties has presided over the development of Prairie Trail in Ankeny. He appeared at the announcement of a new business — two, actually, under one roof.

As the man who built a fortune manufacturing farm chemicals put it, he had waited a long time for a movie theater with dining and more to come to Prairie Trail, and "I hate the word patience."

By Albaugh's reckoning, the buildout of more than 1,000 acres on a former Iowa State University research farm should have been completed in seven to eight years. An ugly recession got in the way, slowing homebuilding.

The transition from farm field to neighborhoods and shopping districts and entertainment centers has taken longer than imagined when DRA Properties worked out the development details with Ankeny city officials. A few houses would go up, and they would be surrounded by empty fields. Tenants would be announced for a shopping plaza, or medical offices would be erected, and still the wind would blow big clouds of dust across big barren fields.

Patience is paying off. Albaugh said he can see the finish line, maybe three to five years away.

Prairie Trail is becoming the spitting image of renderings that have floated around for years, with sketched-out neighborhoods built along trails and around parks with the kind of amenities intended to keep the kids and the grandkids in the area.

A 12-screen movie theater with dining options and a 12-lane bowling alley are crowning achievements for an entertainment and dining area called The District, and within that area is the Town Center, where the city of Ankeny will build its new public library.

The theater and bowling alley will be developed by B&B Theatres of Kansas City, Mo. This is an old, family-owned business, and that fact is to Albaugh's liking. Hooking up with a family operation adds that Iowa touch, the abiding strength of family and community that Albaugh has long said he wanted reflected in Prairie Trail.

He got it with B&B, who came to Prairie Trail via another longtime family operation, Reynolds & Reynolds Inc., the Des Moines-based insurance services firm that calls itself the largest insurer of movie houses in the nation. One of its clients is B&B. When Bob Bagby discussed expansion plans with Stan W. Reynolds, who head the movie division of the company that was founded by his father, Stanley J. Reynolds, well, we know how that piece of the story plays out.

Bob Bagby and his son, Brock, attended the announcement about the theater and bowling alley. The Prairie Trail operation will be B&B's first in Iowa.

B&B traces its history to 1924, when Elmer Bills bought the Lyric Theatre in Salsbury, Mo., and later married the woman who played the piano during silent movies (the piano has been preserved). Twelve years later, Bills hired the then 10-year-old Sterling Bagby as a concession clerk. Sterling and his wife later ran a travelling picture show operation. In 1980, the Billses and Bagbys merged as business partners. Romance played a role. A few months before the merger, Bob Bagby married Bridget Bills.

These days, B&B is the seventh-largest cinema operator in the country, with 386 screens at 48 locations in seven states. Bob Bagby said the company keeps two drive-ins operating, more for old times' sake than for a big profit.

Prairie Trail makes good business sense, he said.

"The market looks great, and with the growth rate, it's only going to get better," he said, adding that in addition to Ankeny and Greater Des Moines, visitors are traveling from north-central Iowa.

How would Albaugh like to see the future play out at Prairie Trail? First off, the development has needed to add more parking areas, an indication that business is good. And to feed that parking, he would like to see more retailers.