Von Maur's Opening Provides Coralville's River Landing With New Draw
By Chelsea Keenan & Chris Earl, Reporters
CORALVILLE — As Von Maur opens its doors on Friday at Coralville's Iowa River Landing, it proved a draw for one family.
"We heard there was a soft opening and we thought we needed to be one of the first people to come on down," said Sarah Turner of Marion, who spent Friday shopping with her two daughters.
The new 80,000 square-foot store boasts three times the amount of fitting rooms, new brands and more space than its prior location in Iowa City's Sycamore Mall.
The 20,000-square feet of additional space makes room for amenities the old location was unable to offer, said Jim von Maur, the company's president. New features include higher ceilings, more seating and a women's lounge with a seating area, mother's room and large women's restroom.
"(The store) has open air, is well lit and it's just more shoppable," he said.
The Coralville location also has a spacious center court, where customers can sit and listen to the melodies of the pianist playing a black piano — a signature feature at each one of the Davenport-based company's department stores.
"(Iowa) is where we started," Von Maur said. "So all the stores here are on the older side. I think customers will be surprised and excited at our stores' newer looks."
Although Von Maur's opening marks a significant milestone for Iowa River Landing, its decision to leave Sycamore Mall and open a larger location in Coralville was a controversial one. The city of Coralville offered Von Maur more than $9.5 million in tax increment financing (TIFs) to build, which caused state lawmakers, business people and members of the public to question whether the economic development tool was being misused.
Von Maur is playing the important role of anchor store at the Iowa River Landing. The 180-acre mixed use site has already seen a fair amount of development since its start in 2006.
"In the long run, people will realize it's for the best," said Coralville mayor Jim Fausett. "People did not realize that Von Maur was going to be closing in the other site and they were going to be staying in the area if they could get the type of help they needed."
The Marriott Hotel and Conference Center opened in 2006, Homewood Suites built a 100-room hotel, Backpocket Brewing debuted a 15,000 square-foot facility in 2012 and the University of Iowa Heath Care clinic sees around 200,000 patients each year and soon will open a procedural suite on the fifth floor.
But the development still needed a store to attract high volumes of shoppers. That's where Von Maur comes in.
"We have a track record of going into a shopping center that isn't doing well and helping revitalize it or going into a new market where they're counting on us to bring in foot traffic," Von Maur said.
The 140-year-old company operates 27 stores spread across 11 states, including five stores in Iowa as well as its corporate headquarters and e-commerce facility in Davenport. But von Maur said its presence in growing.
In addition to the Coralville store, the company is opening department stores in Birmingham, Al. and Rochester, NY this year with another store opening in Oklahoma City in 2014. Each of the new stores will be opening in a new market.
Von Maur said the company would like to open one to two stores a year, but isn't tied to that number.
"We're very opportunistic," he said. "But it depends on the amount of open space."
Von Maur is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m and Sunday from noon to 6 p.m.
In the shadow of the Marriott, Vesta has been serving food and drink for five years. Jonathan Shoemaker works there as the kitchen manager and said they expect more foot traffic to bring in more business during the lunch rush as opposed to evening.
"The owner definitely foresaw that happening and jumped on the opportunity to build a restaurant here while it was a good time to," Shoemaker said.
There's still a fair amount of work to be done at Iowa River Landing. The construction of a section of retail and office space dubbed Main Street is underway.
It will include Cedar Falls-based Scratch Cupcakery, men’s clothing store Jos. A Bank, Charlotte’s Deli and Waterstreet Coffee Bar as well as 42,000 square feet of office space. The shops should open in late fall or early spring, and the office space is slated to open in spring 2014.
In celebration of Von Maur's opening, Iowa River Landing restaurants are hosting a free Taste of the Iowa River Landing event from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.Saturday, in a tented area just south of Von Maur.
Participating restaurants include Backpocket Brewing, Edgewater Grille, Vesta, Konomi, Charolotte’s, Scratch Cupcakery and Waterstreet Coffee Bar. Each will offer a variety of appetizers and sample foods and beverages from their menus.
Von Maur shoppers will experience live music, children’s entertainment and in-store giveaways, including a drawing for a $1,000 shopping spree.
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