The West Des Moines City Council signed off on a new vision for University Avenue on Monday that will guide West Des Moines and Clive over the corridor's future.
The two suburbs collaborated on the 222-page planning document, put together by planning firm Confluence, in a process that began in 2019. The master plan looks at the area around University Avenue from east of 22nd Street to Interstate 80/35, including the struggling Valley West Mall, and will give officials a helping hand as they seek to breathe new life into the region.
Meanwhile, the latest court document filed in the foreclosure against Valley West Mall's former owner says while the bank has the right to auction the property, it does "not have any plans for an auction sale" since the mall is under active management and is being leased to tenants.
The West Des Moines council unanimously approved the master plan, with council member Kevin Trevillyan absent. The Clive City Council is expected to vote on the plan in January, the Business Record reported last month.
The plan does not bind the two cities to any specific decisions. But it does offer them a guide as development projects are proposed and the cities think about what to pursue in the years to come.
Mayor Russ Trimble said he's already had initial conversations with developers about redevelopment in the Valley West Mall area.
"We are looking at this area. We're focusing on this area, and I can't wait to work to redevelop this area and make it vibrant once again," Trimble said.
What were the goals of the study?
According to city documents, West Des Moines and Clive saw a need for the study based on the age of the area, a changing economy and the opportunity for redevelopment. The study had several goals, including: ways to increase economic vitality; how to create a vibrant and sustainable place to live, work and play; identify opportunities for redevelopment; transportation improvements; and improvement of green spaces.
West Des Moines put $200,000 toward the study, Clive put in $50,000 and the Metropolitan Planning Organization kicked in $100,000.
What does the plan recommend?
The master plan makes several recommendations, including:
More mixed-use development in several areas, including Valley West Mall, University Park Shopping Center, Westowne Center and Westridge Shopping Center.
More multi-family housing around the corridor, which currently has few options.
Make the area more walkable and bicycle-friendly while improving access to public transportation.
Think of Valley West Mall as a site for redevelopment.
Build more character and a sense of place in the corridor, such as with new signage, landscaping, gateway work and new trails.
Plan for more public space, such as by Shoppes at Three Fountain or University Park Shopping Center, or by requiring certain new developments to include public open space.
Plan for stormwater management
What could happen with Valley West Mall?
Valley West Mall has faced a series of high-profile challenges over the past year, including foreclosure after its previous owner was $3.5 million behind in its payments on a $50 million loan, and the recent departure of Von Maur department store for Jordan Creek Town Center.
"The Valley West Mall is not going to be a mall like it was again," the new master plan says. "The market has moved away, and there is no longer demand for 1 million square feet of specialty retail."
However, the master plan considers Valley West Mall the linchpin of the area, and calls for redevelopment that could involve changing its zoning to allow for mixed-use development: a blend of retail, entertainment and residential use.
There's potential for multi-family residential construction on the Valley West site and a new hotel on or near the property, according to the master plan.
Former owner Watson Centers had been working for years on a plan to bring new life to the shopping center, which opened in stages beginning in 1975. Last year, it unveiled a $278 million redevelopment plan that called for a mix of apartments, a hotel, an entertainment center and offices, as well as a public gathering space and two ponds surrounded by walking paths.
It's unclear whether a new developer will bring forward the same or a different project for the area. Regardless, any project needs to be unique, instead of trying to replicate Jordan Creek, the master plan says.
Chris Higgins covers the eastern suburbs for the Register. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 515-423-5146 and follow him on Twitter @chris_higgins_.
This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: New plan for development in Valley West Mall area moves forward