Owner loses land for new mall

Julia Ferrell

On Monday morning, the land originally set for the new mall foundation was given over to Regions Bank. 

James “Bucky” Wolford, the developer who purchased the land in 2007 never signed any leases with retail stores and incurred debt to the bank. Wolford had purchased 800,000 square feet of land at the intersection of Interstate 35 and East 13th Street. The space would have been made into the new retail mall called The Shops at East Prairie. 

The foreclosure hearing was set for this morning at the Story County Justice Center in Nevada. No one appeared to represent Wolford at the hearing.

Despite the foreclosure, City Council member Peter Orazem wants the City to continue planning to use the space for retail. 

“I would prefer to have frontage on the interstate that would be retail. We don’t have any retail currently directly on the interstate and I think we may be the only city in the country that makes this little retail dollars on the interstate,” Orazem said. “We would like to be able to have something that looks more inviting coming off the interstate than the National Animal Disease Lab.”

Orazem wants the area to remain a retail space because it provides more job opportunities for ISU students.

“Clearly, Ames needs to provide part-time opportunities for students to be able to afford to go to Iowa State, especially with budget cuts that have limited, more so than in the past, the availability of work-study and other jobs on campus,” Orazem said. 

The availability of retail jobs, in particular, is significant to Orazem because part-time jobs with a flexible schedule are key for students who want to leave the university with less debt.  

Although a portion of the Ames community is in favor of the city getting more retail stores, another portion disapproved of the new building and its location. While North Grand Mall is accessible by several different CyRide routes, the new mall space was not near any route. 

Additionally, Catherine Scott of the Ames Smart Growth Alliance, said a retail store off the interstate might also attract fewer drivers into the city of Ames.

“Because of where Ames is, we’re not going to attract a lot of people who are just driving by. We’re between Minneapolis and Des Moines and those places are famous for their retail,” Scott said. “I think we have a lot of amenities inside of Ames. If people would come into town, then they could experience all of Ames and not just some retail on the interstate.”

Instead of using the space for retail, Scott said the land would be better for industrial use because the city of Nevada is “moving toward Ames with their industrial area.” But Scott said the decision on the land’s future use is still up in the air.

“It’s possible that some other person would purchase it. It’s possible we’ll have trouble selling it that way,” Scott said. “It remains to be seen what actually happens with the land.”

Dan Culhane, president and CEO of the Ames Economic Development Commission, could not be reached for comment.