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Herberger's, the last remaining retail store in the Imperial Mall, closed its doors in 2018

As a child growing up in Hastings, Mayor Corey Stutte remembers the Imperial Mall as a thriving shopping hub.

While it’s disheartening to see the current state of the property, which houses just a handful of remaining tenants, he said, the area also may offer an opportunity.

The Community Redevelopment Authority brought in a consultant in July 2018 to help build a new vision for the area on Hastings’ west flank that includes the Hastings Municipal Airport, Imperial Mall, Imperial Theatre, former Village Inn restaurant and several undeveloped and underdeveloped properties.

A summary report from Ayres Associates following Future Visioning Meetings on July 25 and 26 offered a variety of possibilities for the area, based on discussions with community members and projects in other cities.

Stutte said the area isn’t likely to be a retail center again, but the city is hoping to find investors willing to redevelop part or all of the area. He said city officials have been in contact with the mall’s out-of-state owners and expressed a willingness to find a new use for the property.

“We’ve talked about this many years,” he said. “We’d like to have it back in local ownership.”

Don Threewitt, the city’s development services director, said the consultant from Ayres was encouraged by the level of engagement local citizens had in the project.

The report provided a framework for the future, which includes continued meetings to identify potential partners in a project and the shape of that project.

“The next steps are to look and see about finding community investors,” Threewitt said.

In other redevelopment areas, he said change starts with one or two investors who are committed to the project. Once the vision starts taking shape, he said, more developers will want to get involved.

“Success breeds success,” Threewitt said.

But even if investors are located, he said, residents can expect to wait 10-20 years before the area would be thriving again.

“It’s the baby steps that redevelop areas,” he said. “It’s going to be a long-term project.”

Threewitt said the city’s role in the project is to help with the regulatory side. He said they will work with potential developers to be as flexible as they can with zoning so developers can see their vision become reality.

A fieldhouse 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 were among ideas proposed as future uses for the properties.

Stutte said the city is ready to work with developers to explore any of these ideas and more.

“We’re here to help facilitate redevelopment on the property,” he said. “We’re here to help people.”

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