Hastings city officials want to hear ideas from the public next week for the future of an area in west Hastings that includes the Imperial Mall.

Future Visioning Meetings will take place July 25 and 26 for an area that includes the Hastings Municipal Airport, Imperial Mall, Imperial Theatre, Village Inn and several undeveloped and underdeveloped properties.

The Community Redevelopment Authority will cover the $6,800 cost for the workshop, which will be conducted by Ayres Associates of Waukesha, Wisconsin.

“We hope to come out with a way ahead on that entire area, what we’d like for it to be for the community and to make sure we actually get some community feedback as we move forward,” Mayor Corey Stutte said.

The kickoff meeting will begin 6 p.m. Wednesday at The Lark, 809 W. Second St. A cash bar and refreshments will be available.

The entire process is intended to solicit feedback, especially the kickoff.

“If people have ideas I’d encourage them to come out to that kickoff meeting,” Stutte said.

Then, on Thursday, listening sessions will take place each hour from 7:30 to 11:30 a.m. at the Chamber Development Center, 301 S. Burlington Ave.

“We’re breaking it up every hour, so that we can bring groups in and everybody has a chance to say what they want to say and then we move on to the next group,” said Don Threewitt, director of development services.

A wrap-up meeting will take place 5:30 p.m. Thursday in the Hastings Airport terminal building, 3300 W. 12th St.

Already, the area in question has generated a lot of public feedback.

The Hastings Planning Department posted information about the Visioning meetings on its Facebook page on July 10, encouraging ideas for the property there, and received more than 100 comments.

Stutte said the hope is to come up with multiple options for the future of the area.

“This is just to signal to private developers that the interest is out there, what might be supported from the community’s standpoint,” he said. “We want to make sure they understand exactly what kind of interest there is out there.”

He’s not worried that the Visioning meetings and extra attention paid to future plans for the mall would lead to an increase in the asking price for the mostly empty building.

The meetings next week are looking at long-term planning for the property.

“I’m not concerned about what the owners might be looking for as far as pricing,” he said. “That has nothing to do with this process, frankly. Really what we’re looking for are ideas for long-term planning for the airport area, the old Imperial Mall area as well as surrounding properties.”

Stutte said the city needs to do a better job of long-term planning, and that the Visioning process is part of the effort to do just that.

“At the end of the day, when we’re talking about the mall specifically, this is going to be a private sector deal where someone’s going to have to come in or a group of folks is going to have to come in and purchase the mall to make sure they are able to do what they can with it,” he said.

Threewitt said the chance of the mall being a major retail center again is slim because retail has moved online and to a few consolidated big box stores.

“So then we want to look at next steps,” he said. “There’s a lot of acreage there at play.”

So, city officials want to look to the future and scenarios that could play out in the future if ownership changes.

Threewitt also emphasizes that the meetings aren’t just about the mall.

“I’ve been trying to drive home, it’s Blight and Substandard Area 13,” he said. “It includes the Imperial Theatre and the Village Inn and the airport and a few undeveloped and underdeveloped properties out there as well as the mall.”

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