Davenport city officials this week began the process to create a new zoning district as part of an effort to reposition NorthPark Mall and surrounding property for redevelopment.
The city's Plan and Zoning Commission held a public hearing Tuesday to rezone about 143 acres in the area bounded by Northwest Boulevard, Kimberly Road, Brady Street, East 42nd Street, Welcome Way and by the north lot line of NorthPark Mall from general commercial to "City Centre District."
"The City Centre Zoning District is intended to position the central part of the city for revitalization oriented toward a regional mix of commercial, high-density residential and entertainment that encourages compatible development and redevelopment, while promoting local reinvestment," said Laura Berkley, city development and planning administrator. "We're hoping to activate the area, having a more engaged area."
The proposed zoning district includes multi-family residential and retail areas, office space, restaurants, entertainment and green space.
Berkley said city staff still was reviewing setback and lot-size standards but intend to preserve "the existing buffer" between the shopping center property and neighboring homes. Additionally, the city would prohibit connecting Harrison, North Main and Sheridan streets through to the new zoning district.
Once-flourishing enclosed shopping malls across the country are struggling to remain relevant as more shoppers go online and the number of vacant storefronts grows, according to city officials and commercial real estate experts.
Today, three of the mall's five anchor tenants remain. Sears and Younkers closed within months of each other in 2018, leaving behind thousands of square feet of empty retail space.
Given the changing retail landscape, city officials have said Davenport needs to be strategic about guiding future investment to the 140-acre area that provides commercial tax benefits and offers shopping and entertainment opportunities within easy reach of a large part of the city.
Among the opportunities city officials hope to explore is the use of a Reinvestment District for the mall property through the Iowa Economic Development Authority. Such districts are designed to assist communities undertake large investments that generate high volumes of sales tax and draw consumers to areas that have seen an economic decline, according to the IEDA.
"Some of the uses that are proposed to be removed are ones that do not generate a lot of sales tax revenue, which is what the reinvestment district incentives is all about, and are also ones that have a lot of area requirements for them," Berkley said.
For example, vehicle dealerships, rentals and repairs, pawnshops and payday lenders would not be allowed within the new zoning district.
Berkely noted the city would still retain the ability to restrict certain development within the new zoning district. For example, gas stations, drive-thru facilities, apartments, townhouses and duplexes would be allowed by special use, which requires review and approval by the city's Zoning Board of Adjustment, which could place additional conditions on the proposed development.
"That is largely locational, where we want to review where within the zoning district those would be going and make sure they’re appropriate," Berkley said.
Few residents and commissioners spoke or asked questions about the proposed rezoning. The city notified property owners within 200 feet of the property to be rezoned, and city staff have met with some of the businesses within the area to discuss the rezoning, Berkely said.
David Gellerman, a partner in the Northtown Plaza retail strip center at 102 East Kimberly Road near NorthPark Mall, called the proposed rezoning a "progressive step, and I appreciate the effort."
The item will come back before the Plan and Zoning Commission for consideration at its Oct. 5 meeting. It will also get a public hearing and three readings before the Davenport City Council before adoption, which is expected in late November.