Mason City looking to fill empty storefronts

With news of Hy-Vee turning 6 former Shopko locations in Iowa into Dollar Fresh stores, we're looking into what Mason City is doing with not only the former Shopko, but also other vacant storefronts

Posted: Jan 28, 2020 1:42 AM
Updated: Jan 28, 2020 1:47 AM

MASON CITY, Iowa - On Monday, Hy-Vee officially announced that they would transform 6 former Shopko buildings into 'Dollar Fresh' stores, which, according to a news release, will be "designed to offer customers in smaller communities a fresh, new product selection at low prices."

While those former Shopkos have a new purpose, Mason City's location remains vacant. However, that's not the only former retail spot that is empty; the former Best Buy, a nearby building next to JoAnn Fabrics, and Younkers, to name a few, are currently unoccupied.

City Administrator Aaron Burnett says while there are currently no plans for the former Shopko, he pointed to the recent development of the former K-Mart space, which was subdivided into three units that now house Planet Fitness, Ashley Furniture Home Store, and Harbor Freight Tools.

He says part of the challenge is finding the right tenant and securing a commitment.

"There's conversations that come up in economic development. You'll have 3-4 before one takes hold. We're excited about the businesses that have reached out and that are interested in those spaces, and I think there is a good future for some of this getting off the ground and getting started."

In addition, he's seen creative ways to re-use some of those former retail spots turned into more experience-driven businesses, like trampoline parks, both in Iowa and across the country.

"I think those experience driven opportunities, like Country Axe in the mall and the new putt-putt in the mall, when you have an experience, I think that draws people out and gets them engaged in a space. They can go do something, eat dinner and maybe shop along the way. I think we need to think creatively about taking those retail spaces beyond just a one and done, walk into a place, walk out of a place, get in your car and drive away. It needs to be like a downtown, like a whole experience."

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