Vision Meeting

Matt Ashby, an urban planner at Ayres Associates of Cheyenne, Wyo., discusses the possible future use of properities in the Imperial Mall area during a Future Visioning Meeting in the Hastings Airport terminal building.

With proposed ideas like a field house for various sports activities, child care facilities, specialized living facilities, an incubator for artisan manufacturing, a distribution center for shipping companies and a civic training center, the Imperial Mall property still has potential.

Those are some of the possible uses for the 234,000-square-foot mall building discussed through the course of seven meetings Wednesday and Thursday as part of Future Visioning Meetings for an area that includes the Hastings Municipal Airport, Imperial Mall, Imperial Theatre, Village Inn and several undeveloped and underdeveloped properties.

The meetings — which included a kick off meeting Wednesday with about 80 people in attendance, five listening sessions Thursday morning with a total of about 100 people and a wrap up with about 35 people meeting Thursday evening — were facilitated by Matt Ashby, an urban planner at Ayres Associates in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

While the Imperial Mall is still in private ownership by the Namdar Realty Group in Great Neck, New York, the Kmart lease, which is more than $30,000 per month, will end of this year.

Hastings is not unique with an abandoned shopping mall.

Citing the Credit Suisse Group, Ashby said about a quarter of the remaining 1,100 malls in America will close in the next five years.

The website, www.deadmalls.com, is dedicated to documenting the trend.

Ashby said the attendance and participation at the different meetings shows the interest Hastings residents have in this area.

“It’s important you’re having this conversation now, so you can get your ducks in a row,” Ashby told the crowd about the visioning process during the wrap-up session.

He will now take the feedback he received and develop strategies and action steps for the area.

He said some of the next steps for the property include developing a branding story line for the vision of the area; establish more details and more consensus, explore market demand and follow up on air distribution opportunities.

He will provide in more detail some of the early action steps.

One of the first things Ashby said should take place locally is convening partnerships to take on the property.

The total mall property is 325,000 square feet.

“No one entity can take on a project like this,” he said.

It’s important, he said, for local entities to have clear communication. That includes the Hastings Economic Development Corp.

In an interview after the wrap-up meeting, HEDC interim director Maggie Vaughan said the mall does provide an opportunity to accessibility to more space.

“We have people in the community who are creating things out of their garages,” she said. “They have really cool products. They have really great ideas but they just don’t have adequate space to see those come to fruition; they can’t find anything right now that will work for that.”

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