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New Grand Island Conestoga Mall managers plan $150 million development

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Conestoga Mall Grand Island

New Conestoga Mall manager Woodsonia of Omaha is  planning a major $150 million to $200 million redevelopment of the Grand Island site, and is pursuing blighted and substandard status for tax-increment financing to make it happen.

GRAND ISLAND — Big changes are being planned for Conestoga Mall.

The City Council on Tuesday approved referring a blighted and substandard study to the Regional Planning Commission for the 78-acre site off U.S. 281.

The request was made by Omaha-based Woodsonia, which is managing the property owned by Namdar Realty Group of Great Neck, New York.

Regional Planner Chad Nabity said the site met requirements for blighted and substandard in November 2018, but Namdar didn't present a plan for the property then.

"I'm sure many of you will agree with me that it has not gotten better for the most part over the course of the last four years," he said.

Woodsonia has presented a concept for the property that will have to be "fleshed out" as it moves forward, Nabity said.

The redevelopment project is estimated to cost between $150 million to $200 million.

For redevelopment to take place, the property will need tax-increment financing, which requires blighted and substandard status.

Mitch Hohlen, a partner with Woodsonia, detailed some plans for the property.

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Hohlen said the Omaha firm has purchased a mall from Namdar in the past.

"They're kind of a challenging group to work with," he said. "Their process is to buy enclosed malls, parse them off and bleed them. Fortunately, there's not a lot to split off here, so we do have a unique opportunity to do a master redevelopment like this."

Woodsonia intends to "right-size" the mall, to closer to 200,000 to 150,000 square feet.

"There are 10 to 15 very viable tenants in this mall right now. They're doing well. We'd like to keep them in there," Hohlen said. "But, as part of this opportunity, we really want to update the mall."

The "substantial investment" planned would include new interiors, exteriors and parking lot.

There would also be new developments, including a four-level, multi-family unit on the north side of the property, Hohlen said, and more retail space.

He added, "There is demand for it. It's not a dream."

To accommodate that, the developer would raze the old Sears space and defunct Napoli's restaurant.

The plan is likely to include exterior storefronts, as "a lot of national tenants don't want to be located inside of a mall anymore," Hohlen said.

"We're not entirely sure if this will be an exterior facing mall with new store fronts or a drastically updated interior, but there are quite a few tenants that are going to stay. And we plan to bring a pretty vast and updated entertainment offering to this component, which I think you need for the space to be viable."

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