Months after Lucky's Market closes, search continues for a new business to take over

Published: Jul. 22, 2019 at 5:20 PM CDT
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Everyone probably has a store or business that they wish could come to town. When Lucky's Market shut down in Iowa City this year, one woman decided to get such a wishlist together.

But as it turns out, finding a replacement to fill that list of wishes has proven to be a difficult task.

Megan Alter, an Iowa City resident who plans to run for city council this fall, said before she filled out nomination papers, she asked people what they want to see go in the space Lucky's Market left behind.

"This was a way for a lot of people to be able to give some input," Alter said.

After Lucky's Market closed on the east side of Iowa City in March, people began brainstorming for what they would like to see in the now-vacant space.

"There was a petition that went around immediately for: 'let's put in a Target!'" Alter said. "I signed it, I thought that's great. But it got me thinking, maybe there are other options that other people in the community want."

Alter put together a palette of options. She posted it online and asked others in Iowa City to put in their ideas of what to see every day. She received more than 200 responses, asking people to put in their ideas.

"The overwhelming response was for a one-stop-shop, like Target, which makes a lot of sense," Alter said. "We lost Paul's, we lost K-Mart, Tuesday Morning now is gone."

Tuesday Morning is currently in the process of relocating to a different location outside of Iowa City, but remains open during the transition.

That vision may be shared by the city, too, as explained by staff in the Iowa City Economic Development department.

"We're looking for an anchor-type store to draw a lot of foot traffic in, make another reason to come out to Iowa City Marketplace," Wendy Ford, the city's Economic Development Coordinator, said.

Both the mall owners and city staff had been hoping the space would be filled by now. Months after Lucky's Market moved, that task has proved difficult.

"Lucky's company still holds the lease on that space and it's still paying rent," Ford said. "And that makes it somewhat difficult for other folks to even get in and see it."

Ford said knowing what people would want in that space will help- but knowing when a business could move in is still uncertain.

"There's a lot riding on their being able to fulfill that space again," Ford said. "And we just want to see them be successful."

The amount riding on finding a new tenant is about $1 million from the City of Iowa City. When the store moved in, the city entered an agreement with the Iowa City Marketplace (the mall owners) that would provide $250,000 from the city through tax increment financing, or TIF, agreement. That money was only available if they had 80 percent occupancy and a grocery store, among other details. However, currently, the Iowa City Marketplace has neither of those two features.

Ford said the city would be open to renegotiation if they can find a replacement to put in that space.