New development is possible at old Sears store

Property owner wants the city’s help to demolish existing building in process of pursuing potential development plan

The former Sears store at Crossroads Mall that has sat empty since 2015 may yet be knocked down to make way for something new.

A previous plan to demolish the building and construct a new shopping center there fell apart in 2017, just as a lawsuit over it was to come to trial.

But recently, Blessing Enterprises, of St. Charles, Missouri, which owns the building, has approached Fort Dodge city officials with a potential development plan.

“The owner has one development identified for approximately 1.5 acres of the 6.5 acre site,” Vickie Reeck, the city’s community and economic development director, wrote in a report to the City Council. “The remaining five acres would be marketed for other potential retailers and/or restaurants.”

Reeck wrote that the first development would have an estimated value of $1.75 million.

The identity of the prospective business has not been revealed.

Blessing Enterprises is asking the City Council for help in paying the estimated $397,595 cost of demolishing the Sears building.

On Monday, the City Council will consider a measure indicating its intention to enter a development agreement with Blessing Enterprises. The council will meet at 6 p.m. in the Municipal Building, 819 First Ave. S.

“At this point, we want to work with someone to work to redevelop that site,” Mayor Matt Bemrich said.

He said there will be a lot more research and “due diligence” to perform before the city enters a development agreement with Blessing Enterprises.

“We don’t want to subsidize a new business over an existing business,” he said. “We want to remove the barrier to the development of that site.”

Developers, he said, gravitate to sites that don’t have any buildings on them. To get the Sears site redeveloped, the city has the choice of providing assistance or waiting until a developer who will not ask for financial help comes along, he added.

The Sears store at 307 S. 25th St. opened in 1964 and closed in January 2015.

The building that housed the store appears to be part of Crossroads Mall, and shoppers could always walk between the two. However, the Sears store is actually a separate building with a different owner than the mall.

In September 2016, Hutton Growth LLC, of Chattanooga, Tennessee, in conjunction with Blessing Enterprises, proposed demolishing the Sears store and replacing it with a 74,300-square-foot building that would house eight stores. A 7,800-square-foot building would have been built nearby to house a restaurant and four stores.

J. Herzog & Sons, of Denver, Colorado, which owned the mall at that time, opposed the plan, arguing that it violated agreements covering access to the parking lots and cut off access to the mall from Fifth Avenue South. The matter ended up in Webster County District Court. In late 2017, Hutton Growth LLC moved for dismissal of the lawsuit and walked away from the project.

In 2018, Crossroads Mall was purchased by Namdar Realty Group, Mason Asset Management and CH Capital, all of Great Neck, New York.

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