What's next for Altoona's Prairie Crossing? Urban-style apartments and more outlet stores


What's next for Altoona's Prairie Crossing? Urban-style apartments and more outlet stores

Ian Richardson, Des Moines Register

Altoona's 230-acre Shoppes at Prairie Crossing continues to add more stores, development.

A new burger restaurant, the first metro Hy-Vee grocery-convenience store hybrid and six new outlet stores arrived at Altoona's Shoppes at Prairie Crossing in 2019. 

More development is coming in 2020. 

Among the projects: A new Hyatt Place Hotel will open to guests in late spring or early summer. The Outlets of Des Moines will add more retailers early next year. Tenants are also expected to begin populating the area's new strip mall, and construction could begin on a second one in the spring. 

Quad Cities developer Mike Whalen, whose Heart of America group owns the 230-acre development, said he also hopes to start the first phase of a series of apartment buildings and row homes that will add around 500 living units to the northeast portion of the development.

"What we're trying to do is make it a place where you can live and shop and get on your bike and hit the trail system," he said. 

The Burger Shed, a new restaurant owned by developer Mike Whalen's Heart of America Group in Altoona, will open July 16.

Although plans are still in the works, Whalen said the group is looking at six or seven conventional four- to five-story urban-style apartment buildings and a number of row homes. He said he envisions market-rate apartments with an urban-style design. 

Whalen said the Shoppes at Prairie Crossing development is now around one-third complete, with about 150 of the 230 acres to go.

"I think with the advent of the multifamily development, that just indicates the continued progress," he said. 

New development this year included the February opening of Hy-Vee Fast & Fresh, a small-scale grocery-convenience store blend that sells fuel, coffee and groceries. It was the first of the Hy-Vee store concepts to open in the metro. 

In July, Whalen's company opened the Burger Shed, a new restaurant that features specialty burgers, milkshakes, salads and several classic dishes found at its established kin eatery in Urbandale, the Machine Shed.

Work has finished on the development's first strip mall near the new Hy-Vee. Whalen said he hopes to begin work on a second strip center to the northeast in the spring. 

This site plan shows plans for the use of the different portions of the 230-acre Shoppes at Prairie Crossing in Altoona. (Photo: Special to the Register)

Future plans for the property also include more big box retail. Whalen said a volatile environment for retail has made the timing of that project uncertain, although he'd also like to get started next year. 

"We need to get going on the multifamily, because that's a definitive need and use of what we can make happen at this stage," he said. 

But Whalen said he's hearing more interest from some companies as other development, such as plans for warehouses in Altoona and an Amazon fulfillment center in Bondurant, continues to grow the region. 

"Just in the last 30 days we’ve had a number of people we’ve reached out to say, 'We want to meet after first of the year,'" Whalen said. "That’s pretty exciting, because obviously there's a growing consensus that Altoona and the east side is past the tipping point and is going to continue to roll."

The Outlets of Des Moines passed 50 stores in 2019. More are coming.

The Outlets of Des Moines added six new stores this year, pushing its total to 51. The mall also celebrated its second birthday this October, and general manager TJ Just said he believes traffic at the mall is continuing to rise. 

"I think we're continuing to see more footsteps on the property," Just said. "I think that has a lot to do with the growth and additional stores that we've been able to secure out here." 

Just would not share an official occupancy rate for the development, but a Hubbell/CBRE retail report for the second quarter of 2019 showed the outlet mall's occupancy rate at 93%. That number preceded the opening of stores such as Kate Spade New York and Eddie Bauer Outlet. Outlets of Des Moines at 801 Bass Pro Drive NW in Altoona. 

(Photo: Outlets of Des Moines/Special to the Register)

A reporter's walk-through of the mall in late November showed 53 of the 69 store spaces are either filled by current stores or slated for future ones. Most of the vacant spaces are among the mall's smaller sized outlets. 

But the mall will lose one of its large tenants when Forever 21, which occupies a 15,000-square-foot space at the northwest end, closes at the end of December. It's the outlet mall's first loss since Toys R Us went out of business.

Just said he sees the closure as an opportunity to find another tenant. There are more store opening announcements lined up for next year, he said, including Beef Jerky Experience — a franchise that specializes in more than 100 varieties of animal jerky — Sunglass Hut, and three to four more tenants he couldn't reveal.

"We probably have three or four stores that we'll be announcing early next year that should open in the late spring or early summer," Just said. 

Just said he believes the outlet mall will continue to weather a rocky environment for retail because of its value-driven stores. 

Source: https://www.desmoinesregister.com