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Delay in Westdale Demolition also Delaying Plans on Edge of Mall Property

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa- Westdale Mall demolition and renovation plans are at a standstill after J.C. Penney Co. rejected changes to the entire mall. That apparent business standoff, first reported Thursday, is also impacting other businesses outside the main mall itself.

Frew Development Group is leading the push to redevelop the mall. The city of Cedar Rapids has also committed to $5 million in upfront development costs to launch the demolition effort. According to commercial realtors familiar with the situation, J.C. Penney is the only tenant with the right to have a say about physical changes to the rest of the mall. Both Frew Development and Penney's have so far been unable to reach a deal.

The impact to other businesses is connected with the delay in demolition. Frey Development was planning to knock down the old Montgomery Ward building, which was used most recently as offices by Linn County government, this fall. But another part of the fall work was beginning preparation of a new ring road around the exterior of the mall property.

Scott Olson, a Cedar Rapids city council member and commercial realtor, said he had three clients lined up ready to start projects of their own once the redevelopment of the mall reached a certain point. One of the prospects was a tenant for what's usually called "outparcels" along the edge of the mall property.

Putting off work on the ring road will push back completion of other development, possibly until 2015.

However, Olson said he has hope those businesses, eager to do their own projects in connection with a revamped mall property, will be willing to wait.

"I think they will still be there a year from now. However, again, it delays their plans and it delays the mall's plans not to have this underway soon," Olson said.

The ring road delay won't impact everyone. One official with Hunter Companies, developers of one strip mall site on the edge of the mall, said it won't impact what they plan to do. As a stand-alone development, most of the project already exists and draws its own customers. A planned expansion is already underway.

Lisa Rowe, Westdale general manager, said while Frew Development won't start demolition work as soon as planned developers anticipate catching up with where the project was expected to be by the end of 2014.

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