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Mall Managers Plan to Take Sycamore Social

Updated: Monday, July 15 2013, 09:24 PM CDT
IOWA CITY, IA (CBS2/FOX28) -- The department store Von Maur is leaving the Sycamore Mall on July 21 for its new location in the Iowa River Landing in Coralville. The departure leaves Sycamore without its flagship retailer, but mall managers are preempting that with a plan to change the shopping experience there.

Sycamore Mall managers have been studying successful malls across the country and say the trend is to make the experience more social.

"And people are shopping more, because they get to see people," said CRH Management Vice President of Commercial Properties John Arlotti.

And their plan is to bring that model to Sycamore, too, once Von Maur leaves.

"The fact of the matter is they are leaving, so we have to do something. And sometimes, your biggest disappointment can create the biggest opportunity," Arlotti said.

The idea is to take the space that Von Maur leaves behind, and fill it with new retailers -- maybe one, maybe 15. That will all depend on how many interested parties CRH Management can pull down, and Arlotti said they are already in conversation with several stores, though he can't disclose which ones.

Arlotti hopes that by changing the face of Sycamore and making it a social shopping experience -- where folks can shop at specialty stores or sit and enjoy a glass of wine -- people will flock there again. The goal is to make it a different experience from both Coral Ridge Mall and downtown Iowa City.

"I love going downtown and I think it has so many opportunities, great restaurants, that kind of thing, and I think this can do that same thing, but offer something that the downtown doesn't," said Shive-Hattery architect Mark Seabold.

The local architecture firm will be redesigning the mall. There won't be plans drawn up until they secure the retailers that will fill the space, but Seabold said he envisions an external and internal remodel, that might incorporate the outdoors inside.

The shoppers at Sycamore said the renovations is badly needed. They said the neighborhood desperately needs something to reinvigorate it, and business owners are optimistic that this will do just that.

Tim Woolums is a co-owner of Hobby Corner, where they have already started to incorporate some of those social ideas. They opened a game room next to the shop where people can rent games and play them, and they host game-playing events, as well.

Woolums thinks the mall will fill up with other niche stores like his.

"You're going to come here for a certain portion of the place, and then kind of see things you didn't expect to see," he said. Mall Managers Plan to Take Sycamore Social

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