Time to invest more in Southeast Iowa City


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Nedrebo's move out of Sycamore Mall and the news of Von Maur also leaving has sparked discussion among other Sycamore Mall business owners regarding pulling out of the mall — a move that will hurt the area even further.

For many people who live on the Southeast Side, money and transportation are huge factors that sometimes inhibit their ability to travel to Coralville. They are then forced to make due with the available stores and resources in their neighborhood. But if all the stores move out of the Sycamore Mall and other locations on the Southeast Side, where will people from that neighborhood go for shopping when they are faced with transportation and monetary problems?

Business owners shouldn't be afraid to move into Sycamore Mall. There are opportunities for growth on the Southeast Side and at the Sycamore Mall, and business owners should take advantage of them. There are currently seven available spaces at the Sycamore Mall, and more will be available by the beginning of the new year.

Smart business owners and potential store owners should utilize this availability and create a market at Sycamore Mall that caters to the needs of the people in the neighborhood and also other potential buyers in the Iowa City area. For example, clothing and shoe stores that market to a younger demographic, a childcare center, a large general retail store such as Target, trendy discount stores, entertainment and gaming, and discount product stores would all go over very well at the Sycamore Mall.

Arik Akers, the owner of the Lucky Resale consignment store, said that Von Maur brings in the largest amount of clientele to the mall. Akers said that once Von Maur leaves, a huge amount of business will be lost for the entire mall. Other business owners at Sycamore Mall are also worried about losing customers and are considering moving out as well.

Akers said that he, and most of the other businesses, would like to move out to Coralville where business is booming. You can't blame them — it's easy to understand their reasoning. Coralville is filled with newer buildings, nicer strip malls, better restaurants, and more excitement. People would rather drive out to Coralville than go over to the Southeast Side to contribute their patronage.

The city should help with a revamping of the area. An implementation of tax incentives would surely provoke interest by business owners. Many businesses have moved to Coralville because they were offered tax incentives. Some may argue that giving tax incentives to businesses is a misuse of tax-increment financing, because they are usually encouraged to be used to help the community, schools, parks and recreation, and other governmental endeavors.

However, offering TIFs to businesses that promise to build on the Southeast Side or move into Sycamore Mall is a productive way of helping and benefiting the community and local economy. Businesses would seek the tax incentive, hire employees, and create a foundation for more development, and the burden of travel would be relieved for nearby residents.

Dispelling negative and ill-informed cultural frames and connotations of the Southeast Side can also help spark a renewed business interest in the area. Some people may avoid shopping at Sycamore Mall or other areas on the Southeast Side because of false perceptions of the low-income, Latino, and African-American residents in the neighborhood. Such false perceptions come from ignorance and fear to familiarize one's self with other cultures. They have created a dangerous dichotomy of "good" stores verses "bad" stores, and the consequences rest on the shoulders of the business owners.

But with unbiased help from the city, a realization of business potential, and a dismissal of negative connotations, Sycamore Mall and nearby stores will be able to thrive.

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