Aug 15, 2023 - News

Valley West Mall's future could be housing

A photo of Valley West Mall.

Younkers' Valley West Mall site closed in 2018. Von Maur's run there ended in 2022. Photo: Jason Clayworth/Axios

Valley West Mall's redevelopment could include affordable housing projects under preliminary discussions between prospective developers and West Des Moines, Mayor Russ Trimble tells Axios.

Why it matters: The mall has been in decline for years as big stores like Von Maur and Younkers closed without being replaced.

  • Redevelopment could help alleviate the metro's housing needs and simultaneously rejuvenate business in the city's University Avenue corridor, Trimble says.

Catch up fast: U.S. Bank filed foreclosure proceedings on the mall last year after its owner, Watson Centers, was allegedly $3.5 million behind on its loan payments.

  • The nearly 60-acre mall is still open but is now being managed by a receiver.
  • There are currently no plans for it to be sold at an auction, according to a court filing in the foreclosure case.

State of play: The mall is the linchpin for the area's redevelopment — with housing likely among the most important components, per a study completed last year for WDM and Clive.

  • The city is interested in assisting with gap financing for a "knock your socks off" proposal that could include an affordable housing component, Trimble says.

Of note: Projects are likely years out as the mall's financial problems continue to be resolved.

  • Trimble says he'd like to see redevelopment begin before the end of his first term as mayor in 2025.

The big picture: Iowa needs to build nearly 11K homes for low-income families by 2030, according to a recent projection from the Iowa Finance Authority.

  • Vacant or underused retail centers can be a solution, Toby O'Berry, the director of the Polk County Housing Trust Fund, told members of the Metro Advisory Council last week.
  • That's because they often have unused land like parking lots that are conducive to redeveloped and mixed retail/housing uses, he said.

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