T.G.I. Fridays and Sonic Cancel Plans to Move Near Westdale Mall

By Mark Geary, Reporter

Westdale Mall

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By Mark Geary

CEDAR RAPIDS -- More than half of Westdale Mall's stores sit empty, and now the people planning to build two restaurants nearby have changed their minds.

Developers have withdrawn plans to build a Sonic and a T.G.I Fridays restaurant near Westdale in Cedar Rapids.

Now the city is talking about extending a ban on development in the mall area.

T.G.I Fridays executives said they just didn't think they could make enough money at the Westdale mall site.

When Sonic heard T.G.I. Fridays pulled out of the development deal, the restaurant also backed out.

Developers Hunter Parks and Gerry Ambrose say Cedar Rapids' strict restrictions for the site also complicated the project.

"They have good intentions, but the problem is, who's going to pay for it? The city's not stepping up to say, 'we'll throw some money in to help make this deal happen,'" Ambrose said.

The city wanted developers to agree to add more lighting, build more sidewalks and even revamp the landscaping in the area before any restaurants could break ground.

"What worries me is if they have that attitude -- what are they going to do with the person who will try to come in and redevelop Westdale Mall? Are they going to impose so many restrictions on them that everyone's going to walk away and say, 'Nevermind. I'm going someplace else,'?" Ambrose said.

City leaders say they are just trying to make sure the Westdale Mall property gets redeveloped properly.

"It wasn't that it wasn't welcome, but certainly the development standards and expectations were higher than they would find in a strip mall or somewhere else along Edgewood road," Richard Luther from the city’s development office said.

Now, the city's development team wants to extend the current ban on making any major changes to the Westdale Mall area for another six months.

The idea is to stop people from selling off and redeveloping pieces of the mall.

Ambrose says another development ban could make the mall's problems worse.

"It sort of handcuffs the property owners. It's almost like they've lost control of their own property because the city is imposing those restrictions," Ambrose said.

City officials disagree. They say it's important to have a vision for the entire mall before any construction begins
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The council will decide whether to extend the development ban at its meeting on Wednesday night.

Next week, the city council will also meet with the Westdale Mall's owners to discuss future plans for the shopping center.

E-mail Mark Geary at Mark.Geary@kcrg.com

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