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CBJ Report: Westdale Younkers space likely to be broken up

Westdale Mall has some prospects for the 100,000-square-foot Younkers space that Bon-Ton Stores last week announced it will be vacating as part of a "store rationalization" program to close 42 locations, but it appears unlikely that another department store will take the entire space.

Every week, the Corridor Business Journal shares stories it's working on with CBS 2 News. Here are some of their top stories that will appear in Monday's edition of the CBJ.

Westdale Younkers space likely to be broken up

Westdale Mall has some prospects for the 100,000-square-foot Younkers space that Bon-Ton Stores last week announced it will be vacating as part of a "store rationalization" program to close 42 locations, but it appears unlikely that another department store will take the entire space.

Westdale General Manager Lisa Rowe said Frew Development Corp., which owns Westdale, began exploring possible users for the space as a precaution when Bon-Ton announced last November that it planned another wave of store closings. She said Westdale has identified some retailers with interest in the space already, but breaking up the anchor space may become the best strategy.

A plus for the Younkers store space is that it has ground-floor entrances from the outside on both its upper and lower levels, Ms. Rowe said. Even so, she said most retailers wanting a 100,000-square-foot space prefer that it be on one level.

As retailers have scaled back the number and size of retail stores, retail centers are increasingly dividing up former anchor spaces, Ms. Rowe said, pointing to the redevelopment of the former Sears space at Coral Ridge Mall in Coralville.

Frew Development announced in 2016 that Bon-Ton Stores had extended its lease at Westdale. Ms. Rowe said the lease goes beyond the date of the planned Younkers store closing, but declined to say how far.

Younkers was one of the original Westdale anchor stores, and decided to remain when Frew Development undertook a comprehensive redevelopment of the property. Younkers' existing store at Cedar Rapids' Lindale Mall was not on the store closing list, however the Younkers at College Square Mall in Cedar Falls will be closed. Store closing sales are expected to begin Feb. 1 and last for 10-12 weeks, according to Bon-Ton Stores.

Court Building renovation bringing loft condos to Uptown Marion

The renovation of a historic structure at 796 11th St. will bring the first loft condominiums with outdoor balconies to market in Uptown Marion.

Olmstead Construction of Cedar Rapids acquired two storefronts at 790 and 796 11th St. last year from a local real estate company led by Dan Engle. The building at 796 most recently housed Shermco Industries, and previously the Esco Group.

Brothers Matt and Jason Olmstead decided to sell the 790 11th St. building to the owners of nearby Uptown Snug and renovate the 796 11th St. building. They are now in the process of converting the 6,600-square-foot ground floor into two commercial spaces that will be offered for lease, and the upstairs into four loft condominiums that will be offered for sale.

"It was an opportunity to try something different and see where it goes," Jason Olmstead said.

Aspect Architecture worked with the Olmsteads on the project design. Mr. Olmstead said one model unit will be completed in about 90 days, and the three others will be built to suit as they are sold. The model will be an open loft concept, one of the highlights of which will be cage-style balconies and upper mezzanine levels that can serve as a bedroom. Two of the condos will have larger mezzanines, and will total about 2,200 square feet of space. The others will have smaller mezzanines, and total about 1,650 square feet.

Angie Glick of GLD Commercial is marketing the ground floor space, which has generated interest from restaurants, a bakery, photo studios and other retail users. Bata's, a restaurant which closed its location in Cedar Rapids' NewBo District last year, is expected to open next door in the 790 building, Mr. Olmstead said.

The 796 building was constructed more than 110 years ago to house a livery business, and has had many uses, including a farm supply store, and later offices.

Pricing has not been set for the condo units, Ms. Glick said.

Corridor Development to host virtual job fair

To help fill open positions across the region, Corridor Development will host a virtual job fair March 1 from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. The event, sponsored by Rockwell Collins, will include jobs in the fields of engineering, operations, quality control, management, marketing, sales, advertising, customer service and more.

"Our employers are eager to share their professional job opportunities with candidates across our country and all over the world," DaLayne Williamson, director of workforce solutions for Corridor Development, said in a release. "A virtual career fair is a great way to connect with potential employees who may not be able to attend a more traditional event."

The job fair will include "virtual booths" where employers can connect with candidates and conduct interviews through an online platform. Corridor Development plans to market the event to potential candidates through a variety of direct and social media venues. Local colleges and universities will also promote the event to new graduates, and alums and Iowa Workforce Development and Home Base Iowa will share details with their clients.

Employers and candidates interested in participating can register here. Anyone who would like to learn more about virtual job fairs is also invited to attend a Lunch and Learn event on Feb. 22 from noon - 1:30 p.m. at the Kirkwood Regional Learning Center in Coralville to hear from local employers willing to share advice and answer questions.

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