CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - Thursday, demolition crews started demolishing the old Montgomery Ward building at Westdale Mall.
After 35 years as an enclosed shopping mall, Westdale will soon have a completely new look. Plans call for a $90 million redevelopment, creating other retail settings along with housing, office and restaurant space.
The only stores that will remain are J.C. Penney and Younkers, along with the vacant Von Maur building, which will be repurposed.
Cary Cavanaugh had to see the demolition for himself. He spent ten years at Wards working as a salesman.
"Yeah, it's just a big empty hole now," said Cavanaugh. "This store averaged $13 million a year."
The demo of the 124,000 square foot building is a big step in the redevelopment of Westdale. It will take crews 6 to 8 weeks to clear the building. They plan to demo the mall's connecting corridors this summer. The project's first new stores could pop up in 2015.
Mall officials are happy to be making progress.
"I think people will start to be true believers that this is going forward and that we're committed to the redevelopment. I hope everyone is excited as we are," said Westdale General Manager Lisa Rowe.
Cedar Rapids resident Judy Trimpe is sure excited.
"I'm ready for something to be done with Westdale," said Trimpe.
Trimpe said it's been hard watching the mall "deteriorate" and she said she's more than ready for its reincarnation.
"How ever many years it takes this to become something, I hope I'm here to see it," said Trimpe.
Mall officials want to remind people, J.C. Penney and Yonkers will stay open during the entire redevelopment. Many other stores will operate until the end of March.