Urban Town Center — rechristened as part of its overhaul — is on a roll.
The upswing comes a year after a West Des Moines development company bought the struggling retail center in the heart of a busy Urbandale commercial and community services center.
Once-empty retail and commercial spaces in the center at 86th Street and Douglas Avenue are slowly being leased, trees and shrubs have been removed to improve visibility from the street, the building’s façade is being updated and two storefronts have been eliminated to improve access to the back of the property.
“Little by little, we have been overcoming those things that have blocked redevelopment here,” said Dave Hansen, president of Signature Commercial Real Estate.
Signature bought the retail center a year ago and is investing upwards of $3 million into the project, including demolishing about 2,500 square feet of commercial space to create access to the rear of the building.
So far, updating the exterior and pumping up marketing efforts have resulted in a list of new tenants, including Salon U, Fyzical Therapy and Balance Center, Venom PC computer repair and Next Level Extreme Fitness, which have joined existing retailers Appare Japanese restaurant and Planet Fitness. And Planet Fitness is renewing its commitment to the center by expanding into a larger space.
Two other businesses, restaurant and bar Taco Hangover and trampoline park Get Air, are under construction and should open this year. With those additions, about 60 percent of the center will be occupied.
“If 90 percent of the center is leased at this time next year, we will consider that a success,” Hansen said.
The company is in negotiations with other possible tenants.
Signature bought the 28-year-old center for $3.3 million a year ago from a California company that hired a management company outside of Iowa to operate it.
In its heyday, the retail center boasted a grocery store, restaurants, retail and service-oriented businesses. But as new ownership took over and new retail developments exploded in West Des Moines near Jordan Creek Town Center, the former Parkwood Plaza struggled with vacancies.
Signature recognized the potential in the 125,000-square-foot center that sits on 13 acres at a busy Urbandale intersection.
“Eighty-sixth and Douglas is the Main and Main of Urbandale,” Hansen said.
City offices, including city hall, the police department and the Urbandale Public Library sit across the street. A large Hy-Vee grocery store sits kitty-corner from the center.
About 20,000 vehicles pass the center on 86th daily and another 18,000 along Douglas Avenue, he said.
The building was in good condition when Signature bought it, vice president Andy Hodges said. But the previous owners had let occupancy dipped to about 20 percent, he said.
Salon U owner Al Hageman said he started to negotiate with former owners for a space for his hair salon but struggled to get them to return calls. When Signature took over, “within 24 hours I had an agreement” to lease 1,400 square feet, he said.
“I always thought that it was a good location and a cool shopping center,” Hageman said.
The new owners have cleaned up the parking lot, painted the center’s marquee and updated the fire alarm system.
Hageman also is happy to see companies such as Taco Hangover coming in. “That will be a draw for the whole complex.”
Urbandale was a targeted location for Taco Hangover because it doesn’t have a lot of dining options, said Scott Anderson, an owner in Riley Drive Entertainment, which owns Taco Hangover in West Des Moines, Saints Pub in Des Moines, West Des Moines and Waukee, and Tonic Bar in Des Moines and West Des Moines.
“And we liked what the landlord was doing to the center,” Anderson said.
The 4,500-square-foot bar and restaurant that features a variety of tacos and other items, will be on the far south end of Urban Town Center. It will seat 125 inside and another 50 on the outside patio. Anderson expects it to open by the end of the year.
The other major new tenant, trampoline park Get Air of Utah, is now building out 22,000 square feet on the far north end of the center. No opening date has been set.
The trampoline park features trampolines, a foam pit, a ninja course, basketball hoops and other activities.
Next to Get Air, Planet Fitness is expanding. The fitness center will have about 25 percent additional space when its new space opens.
Hodges said convincing new tenants to come to Urban Town Center was a tougher sell than some of the company’s other newer properties in West Des Moines. “The biggest challenge to this center was visibility, which was supporting a negative view of it.”
Having taken care of that issue by improving the landscaping and adding signage, interest in the center improved. Reasonable leasing prices also helped. Hodges said space is leasing for $8 to $14 per square foot at Urban Town Center, compared with rates twice that much at new centers in the western suburbs.
“For the age of the property and location, compared with higher price points at newer properties, this is a great value,” he said.
Urbandale Economic Development Director Curtis Brown said improvements at Urban Town Center have helped an already vibrant portion of the city. Signature has done a great job of reinvesting in the property and bringing in new businesses, he said.
"This definitely adds to the strength of this commercial area," which includes Hy-Vee's employee training center and a fulfillment center for its online grocery ordering program, Hy-Vee Aisles Online, being built in the former K's Merchandise Mart across the street to the south from Urban Town Center.
Read The Article At DesMoinesRegister.com: http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/money/business/2016/09/16/urbandale-retail-center-douglas/90405132/