Westdale Redevelopment Project Moving Forward

By George C. Ford & Forrest Saunders, Reporters

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - An agreement has been reached between J.C. Penney Co. and Frew Development Group, allowing the Colorado company to move forward with the $90 million redevelopment of Westdale Mall.

J.C. Penney, under provisions of its original lease with Westdale, believed it had the right to approve or reject any physical changes at the mall.

Frew Development had expected to demolish the former Montgomery Ward building this fall and begin preparation of a "ring road" and "pads" on the perimeter for new retail buildings. But that plan was put on hold in early September when Penney refused to approve Frew Development's plans.

John Frew, president and CEO of Frew Development, on Wednesday said a final agreement is being drafted, but the "term sheet" has been approved by J.C. Penney's board of directors.

"The agreement will allow us to move forward and allows J.C. Penney to stay here," Frew said. "It took a long time and it was a very slow process.

"Scott Byers (who leads a local investor group that owns the mall) deserves all the credit for having hung in there."

Frew said the agreement, which should be signed shortly, with J.C. Penney requires Frew Development to invest in the remodeling of the retailer's building. The document also will "clean up" the terms of the original lease, according to Frew.

The J.C. Penney agreement also requires that any demolition or construction to occur after Jan. 15. Frew said demolition of the former Montgomery Ward building likely will begin Jan. 16, signaling the redevelopment project is back on track.

Frew said J.C. Penney wanted more parking than required by the city and that will reduce the total square footage of the project by about 100,000 square feet.

Frew Development Group will present its revised site plan to the Cedar Rapids City Council on Dec. 3 when it seeks approval for perimeter development along Edgewood Road, he added.

"We have been using the time productivity that we lost while we worked out an agreement with J.C. Penney," Frew said. "We may have lost this construction season, but we still intend to finish on time.

"By this time next year, the public will see that the roads and utilities will be in, and we will probably have several new buildings under construction."
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