A consultant will meet with community stakeholders during a two-day visioning workshop in July and discuss possible future uses for an area in northwest Hastings that includes the Imperial Mall.
Don Threewitt, the city of Hastings’ development services director, shared plans for the workshop with members of the Hastings City Council during their work session Monday night. The Community Redevelopment Authority will cover the $6,800 cost for the workshop, which will be conducted by Ayres Associates of Waukesha, Wisconsin — a firm with which Threewitt has a connection — and is anticipated to take place on July 25 and 26.
The workshop is about discussing potential future uses for the blighted area that includes the mall as well as the Hastings Municipal Airport, buildings near the airport, movie theater, Village Inn and other buildings on the mall lot.
Threewitt said the workshop will begin with an evening community kickoff that includes a presentation of current retail trends and uses for dying and failing malls.
The goal, he said, is to shift the community’s focus to a creative mindset to get away from the idea that it’s going to be a shopping mall and discuss possible future uses.
The workshop also includes three to five sessions, 45 minutes each, with facilitated roundtable discussions with potential stakeholders and interest groups to brainstorm future uses for the property as well as a discussion of the resources needed and available to pursue redevelopment.
The question was asked Monday whether this interest would lead to an increase in the asking price of the Imperial Mall.
“That’s one of those things the CRA looked at and said, ‘We’ll take that chance to say we’re looking at some overall visioning,’ ” Threewitt said. “It’s not so much ‘let’s figure out what we’re going to do with this’; it’s more ‘let’s do some overall visioning and get some potential scenarios out there.’ ”
Mayor Corey Stutte said there are local developers interested in participating in a project at the Imperial Mall, but that they could use outside eyes to look at possible uses such as senior housing.
“Is that the best use out there? I don’t know, I guess we’re going to see what the recommendations are,” he said.
Other possible uses he mentioned Monday include multi-family housing or an ancillary airport use.
“At the end of the day it’s going to be a very expensive redevelopment project for whatever group comes together on it,” he said. “We’d like for that group to be local.”
Threewitt said he asked his former associate who is at Ayers about success stories at other defunct malls.
One mall has been transformed into an Alzheimer’s center where each bay was developed into someone’s home.
The main corridor of the mall offered a small-town atmosphere while the facility was a secured area for memory care patients.
Another mall Threewitt talked about had civic mixed with retail uses.
The city hall moved into an anchor store. A business office took over another anchor store.
Other parts of the mall were demolished, and others were recaptured as retail and housing.
“There are no shortages of dead malls, but there are some very innovative reuse strategies out there that don’t include total demolition and redevelopment,” Threewitt said.