Jordan Creek Town Center; West Des Moines, Iowa

Located in West Des Moines, Iowa, Jordan Creek Town Center is the newest super-regional mall in Iowa and, as of early 2012, one of the most recently constructed enclosed malls in the United States. Opened in 2004, its construction was the culmination of over ten years of planning, resulting in not only a mall but an entire retail resort encompassing destinational shopping, dining, entertainment, recreation, and lodging, becoming one of the biggest shopping destinations in the midwest.

Located in West Des Moines, Iowa, Jordan Creek Town Center is the newest super-regional mall in Iowa and, as of early 2012, one of the most recently constructed enclosed malls in the United States. Opened in 2004, its construction was the culmination of over ten years of planning, resulting in not only a mall but an entire retail resort encompassing destinational shopping, dining, entertainment, recreation, and lodging, becoming one of the biggest shopping destinations in the midwest.

It all began in  the mid-1990s.  The land that became the malls was fertile farm land, and there was little to no development west of I-35.  In 1995, West Des Moines businessman Art Wittern proposed a mixed-use development called the “Village at Oakbrook”, located at 74th Avenue (now Jordan Creek Parkway) and E.P. True Parkway.  Around the same time, General Growth Properties, a Chicago-based mall developer, was busy at work building a super-regional mall 100 miles east of Des Moines in Iowa City.  That center, Coral Ridge Mall, quickly became eastern Iowa’s best shopping destination, and General Growth saw an opportunity for an even bigger undertaking in the state’s largest city, Des Moines.

In 1999, General Growth took the Wittern site, and continued work on the original plans to build retail there.  Stemming from the success of its Coral Ridge project, General Growth sought to make a bigger and better Coral Ridge, or as Walt Disney would say, to ‘plus’ the Coral Ridge concept.  The Jordan Creek proposal, unveiled in May 2000 and named after a pioneer settler to West Des Moines, sought to combine a large, traditional, super-regional enclosed mall with at least two other concepts.

The first concept, the Shopping District, consists of the mall and anchors the north end of the development.  The second concept, the Lake District, sits in the middle of the complex and features a 3.5 -acre lake with walking trails, a boardwalk with waterfront dining, an ampitheater, and hotels.  The third concept, the Village District, is a smattering of big-box stores arranged in a semicircle at the south end of the development.  At least one retail analyst compared the Jordan Creek development with Kansas City’s Country Club Plaza, only with a traditional enclosed mall added.

Take a look at a satellite photo of the completed Jordan Town Center area here.

While I believe the first two concepts are great and well thought out, and the lake is unique, the third concept should have been more of what it claims to be – a real Village District, with pedestrian walkways and in-line shops, similar to a scaled-down version of perhaps Easton Town Center in Columbus or any of the other well-executed outdoor malls.  Instead, it’s really just a smattering of buildings arranged around a sea of parking, much like a strip mall.  There’s no charm here, and nothing is at all unique or interesting about this part of the development, and it bums me out a little, especially considering there were ruminations of the development being a similar or slightly-scaled down version of Country Club Plaza in nearby Kansas City.

The extant retail options in the Des Moines market in the late 90s, about the time Jordan Creek was posited, consisted of three super-regional malls: Merle Hay Mall in northwest-suburban Des Moines, Southridge Mall in southeast Des Moines, and Valley West Mall in West Des Moines.  All of these malls served a niche in Des Moines’s retail landscape, but Merle Hay and especially Valley West served to lose the most from Jordan Creek’s new competition.  Interestingly, that was only the case for a time, and Southridge became the loser, despite being the most distant.

In fact, the owners of both Merle Hay and Valley West Malls sued General Growth over the Jordan Creek project, arguing that it was illegal to use TIF financing in making improvements around the mall.  The Iowa Supreme Court struck down the lawsuit in 2002, allowing General Growth to move forward with completing the mall.

Jordan Creek officially opened on August 4, 2004, and attracted over 17 million shoppers its first year.  The enclosed mall portion of the development is two levels and anchored by Younkers and Dillards, with the addition of Scheels All Sports as a major junior anchor.  The mall’s design is modern, and unlike similar dumbbell designed malls, the mall features a slight arc or curvature throughout its length, giving it the illusion of being larger than it is.  The in-line stores here are decidedly destinational, with Iowa’s only Apple Store, and even more unusual – a wine bar inside Younkers.

Jordan Creek became so popular that it accounted for 37% of taxable sales at all of the Des Moines area malls, and became a boon for development in Dallas County, the county located immediately west of Polk County, where Des Moines is.  Until Jordan Creek opened, development in Dallas County was limited and the county was agricultural, not suburban.  Since Jordan Creek opened, the county has been inundated with not only the commercial retail development spawned by the mall and its environs, but also residential growth as well.  In fact, Dallas County grew 62 percent between 2000 and 2010.

As far as the impact on the other Des Moines-area malls, it has been varied.  Both Merle Hay and Valley West malls have wisely embarked on renovations and repositioning tactics to keep their centers fresh, and while they are no Jordan Creek, they seem to be holding their own. Valley West, the market leader before Jordan Creek’s arrival, sits just over 4 miles from Jordan Creek, but an extensive renovation and the retention of complementary anchors to Jordan Creek (Sears, JCPenney, and upscale Von Maur) have kept it fresh.

Merle Hay is in a tier slightly below Valley West, but retains a smart niche of anchors as well (Sears, Kohls, Younkers, Target), in addition to partial renovations and the addition of new stores to stay fresh.

Unfortunately, Southridge Mall, which is clear across the metropolitan area from Jordan Creek, has suffered the most since Jordan Creek debuted.  However, Jordan Creek’s opening is probably only partially to blame for Southridge’s demise, as for many years it was the least accessible mall to the rest of Des Moines and its immediate vicinity is not growing as quickly. Interestingly, Southridge was owned by General Growth at the time of Jordan Creek’s opening, but General Growth smartly divested the property as it tumbled downhill.

We’ve visited Jordan Creek several times through the years, including the month it opened, and most recently in August 2011 when I shopped at the Express Men store, and had a weird experience.  After browsing polo shirts and confirming the sale price with an employee (it was a really good deal), I browsed the rest of the store and ultimately came back to purchase one of the shirts I saw.  It was the only one in my size.  However, it wasn’t there.  Puzzled, as there were no other customers in the store other than me that whole time, I went up to the register. Sure enough, there it was on the desk behind the registers. The employee who helped me had apparently took the shirt aside for himself.  As there were no others in my size, I was annoyed, and became incredulous when the employee quickly covered up the shirt with a bunch of other stuff he was folding and got nervous.  I ignored his deception and asked for the shirt and bought it.  At least he wasn’t going to continue hiding it.  But still, who does that?

Please feel free to leave your experiences and discuss Jordan Creek Town Center in the comments section.

Photos from August 2011:




21 thoughts on “Jordan Creek Town Center; West Des Moines, Iowa”

  1. Seems odd that such a major mall would only have two department store anchors when the competitors have three or four. But maybe that’s the wave of the future.

  2. @J-Man, You are correct in that malls are moving towards fewer department stores & more box retailers, restaurants & entertainment options along with the regular asortment of inline stores.

  3. Looks very similar to Chandler Fashion Center, in Chandler, AZ which opened at the end of 2001. That mall also has the same “arc” to it but has four department stores and the ability to add some junior anchors. It also has the outdoor area with restaurants.

    I’m curious if there were any other enclosed malls built between 2001 and 2005, I’m thinking they would be similar to those two malls too.

  4. Wow. I spent part of my 22nd birthday — in December 2004 — at this mall with my then-boyfriend who hadn’t gotten me other gifts so resorted to having me buy crap at Claire’s and Aveda in lieu of proper presents. I didn’t remember that the mall was so new at that point, though it was rather pristine and, as I recall, way too huge. And no one was really there since my birthday is right before Christmas. We saw a shitty movie and ate nachos at the Cheesecake Factory. At this rate, the mall will last ten times as long as that relationship did.

  5. Younkers was originally going to be a Famous-Barr store but pulled out of the project before it was finished, it seems May Company left the Iowa market, I don’t understand why but I do like that Younkers has a wine bar inside their store, classy!

  6. Quite a nice looking place. I agree about developers almost always promising just a little more than they deliver.
    I don’t like saying one thing looks like another as that must be in the eye of the beholder. Having said that, I will say that the curved roofline and concourse is quite like WOLFCHASE GALLERIA in Memphis.


    ps We are so glad to be getting Von Maur stores here in the south.

  7. Very cool mall. The interior somehow reminds me of Turtle Creek(don’t ask me to say the correct name, it’s been so long since I last read your entry about that one) in Jonesboro, AR, that you also covered. IIRC, that one only opened a year or 2 after Jordan Creek Town Center did.

    Great looking food court area, too!

  8. @Allan, All of the comparisons are interesting in the fact that they are GGP owned properties. The original part of Natick Mall (already profiled) & Brass Mills Center in Waterbury CT, are also GGP malls & are nearly identical in design. The only differences are department store placement & the fact that Brass Mills mallway is somewhat wider than Natick Mall.

  9. Nice job on the new update! Apparently “The Wine Experience” is a full service restaurant with an emphasis on wine (though you can get just wine, or wine and cheese). That is pretty unique, and I wish other department stores could do something like that.

  10. Jordan Creek Town Center was slated to originally have a third anchor on the north side of the mall, to be built later. I do know that Famous Barr/Macy’s, Nordstroms, among others were looking at locating here. Unfortunately due to economic condtions and demographics, this hasn’t yet happened.

  11. @kurt, Chandler Fashion Center is my local mall, so I will say this looks nothing like it. If anything CFC reminds me of late 90s-early 2000s trends. The outdoor component is much smaller and more destinational (with the movie theater toward the end but not in the corridor and mostly restaurants).

    One interesting touch of the mall: the Pledge of Allegiance over the food court entrance. (If you’re wondering why, look at when this mall opened.)

    CFC is Westcor (Macerich), which is another important distinction. Westcor owns or once owned most of the Phoenix area’s major malls (Simon has AZ Mills, Chris-Town is now Vestar, Metrocenter was sold off, the floundering Power Square outlet mall in Mesa is also not related). Metrocenter’s been sold again — for $12 million. And it was the first five-anchor mall in America. (Now, it’s got 2.5 anchors and a trading market with troubles.)

    Phoenix has fewer dead malls than most metros. Dead, dying or repurposed malls here would include Metrocenter, Chris-Town (too central), Valley West/Manistee Ranch, Maryvale, Park Central (too central or bad neighborhood — Maryvale is now two schools), Power Square (VF Factory Outlets — this one’s a story of bad location and bad timing), Camelview Plaza (now America’s largest Dillard’s), and East Valley Mall (despite the name, outdoor and never a big draw). Fiesta (Mesa), a 70s Homart-Sears-Westcor mall, is beginning to hit the skids with its dying exterior corridor and similarly declining location.

  12. Sorry to hear about your bad experience at the Express store! It’s by far my favorite clothing store and the fag that hid that sweater behind the register was in the wrong…you were right to ask for that shirt. He probably would have looked ugly in it anyways (believe me, I shop at that Express a lot and the guys that work there are NOT cute by any means…)

    THAT said, this mall is certainly a step up from Coral Ridge. I’ve been visiting this mall since its opening, and I believe it’s pretty shoppable. It has FYE, Express, Starbucks, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Brookstone, RadioShack and Dillard’s.

    Lovesac unfortunately is closing, not because they want to, but someone beat them to their lease. And guess what’s taking it’s place? A Best Buy Mobile. Keep in mind that there are FIVE places within a few feet to buy mobile phones: RadioShack being next door, at&t being two spaces over, Verizon Wireless across the way, Sprint two spaces away from Verizon Wireless, and U.S. Cellular being directly below at&t on the lower level. The manager of Lovesac says their sales were profitable and had no intentions of leaving. Couldn’t Best Buy Mobile have opened in Valley West Mall instead? I love my cell phones, don’t get me wrong, but I think it was a poor choice of Jordan Creek to immediately lease out their space to something that they have FIVE of already within a few feet! Lovesac says they are consolidating their store with Omaha’s location. Again, I’m very disappointed with this…Lovesac is an upscale retailer that doesn’t have enough locations already. Best Buy Mobile is in every other mall it seems like.

    THAT said, this is the only mall I know of that has 100% occupancy (even though that space across from The Finish Line keeps switching between a few temp businesses). Jordan Creek is a hot place to be, and I wish someone would invest in the fourth anchor space, such as Nordstrom, Macy’s, or Sak’s Fifth Ave. I am still upset that Famous Barr left, because there were already too many Younkers stores around to have one at Jordan Creek. Just my opinion, I think they should have had Dick’s Sporting Goods instead of Scheels All Sports. Dick’s has more exposure throughout the US, whereas Scheels is regional only and it has a “local business” feel to it.

    Sorry for my rant lol…

    Oh, and you mentioned that Valley West’s anchors were Sears, Von Maur and JCPenney…they don’t have Sears, it’s Younkers (my favorite one to shop at in Des Moines.)

  13. @Nathan Bush, FYI Lovesac just closed at Garden State Plaza in Paramus NJ last saturday. Employees told me that the mall didn’t want to renew the lease. As a result, most inventory is being shipped to Menlo Park & most of the employees are switching to either that sttore or Bridgewater commons.

    When the econemy is strong, new home furnishings concepts like Lovesac can flurish. However when you have an econemy that is rather shaky, these types of retailers can struggle mightily.

  14. “fag”?

    Surely you could’ve thought of a better word to describe an obnoxious and selfish store clerk. Iowa doesn’t exactly have a reputation for enlightened people (they did just select Rick Santorum for the GOP nomination, after all) and comments like that certainly don’t help.

  15. @dan reed!,

    I know…I don’t use that word very often, but i reassure you that the guys in that Express store are so snotty and queeny, and think they are better than everyone else, that they qualify to be called one…yes, I’m gay so using that word isn’t as harsh as when a straight guy says it…

  16. was there going to be a Nordstrom here at one point

  17. @Nathan Bush Just because you are gay, it doesn’t give you any right to use that term to describe someone. What the employee did was wrong, but the way you described him wasn’t any better.

    I work at Express, and I think our customer service is leagues better than other stores, like Abercrombie & Fitch or Hollister. Whenever I’m at other stores in the mall, I never even get greated.

  18. @SEAN, I’ll have to look up Brass Mills Center in Waterbury, sometime. Is that a shopping center that was built as an enclosed mall, or is it more like a lifestyle center? And do you know what year it opened.

    If it is true GGP owns both Jordan Creek and Turtle Creek, then no wonder they are similar! I’ll have to look up the company who owns Turtle Creek a little later, when I have the time….

  19. @daniel fife, Good question, I wish I knew that, in regards to Nordstrom. It is possible that GGP might have courted Nordstrom to open here, considering that Williams Sonoma, Cheesecake Factory, and Barnes and Noble(and who tend to be selective on where they open stores) have locations here.

    But of course, Nordstrom is also very selective, when it comes to deciding shopping centers and malls they operate at. And considering the fact that they suddenly closed their Circle Centre Mall location in Indianapolis last summer, with little warning….

  20. @Allan, Brass Mill Center is Enclosed & opened in 1997. It’s most distinctive feature are it’s blue trusses that support the open roof. You will find the same design at Natick Mall as mentioned up in the thred.

  21. This place is -grand- in every sense of the word! An amazingly beautiful place, even my brother, who lives in Minneapolis and is bored to tears with the Mall of America was very impressed with it. I worked, very successfully, at the Dell Kiosk out there for a while in 2007…til Dell pulled the Kiosk, and about a year later, all their Kiosks nationwide. So, for a while, I got to spend a lot of time out there, just soaking it in.

    I love just about everything about Jordan Creek…just about. I don’t love how far it is away (living in Altoona, a north-eastern suburb of Des Moines, it’s nearly as far away from me as it can be while both of us remain in the metro.) Also, everything is so much more expensive out there, and it may just be my imagination, but there seems to be an underlying snobbishness in the very air there. Though, I must admit that that one bothers me the least, by far, as when I’m there, I’m just “one of them.” You do almost feel like you’re a member of an elite club just being there as grand and opulent as it is.

    But the one that bothers me the most, is the toll it has taken on the other malls. Valley West Mall is doing pretty well, though even there, you can see a downturn. Merle Hay is alive and kicking, but still clearly struggling. Southridge had fallen so hard, that in order to retain it’s very existence, has had to undertake such radical renovation, that it involved the near total destruction of the old mall other than the three remaining anchor stores.

    As a result, in my mind, and in the minds of many who used to frequent the old mall, Southridge, as we knew and loved it is dead and gone. Whatever rises from the ashes, though called Southridge, and though hopefully successful will not be Southridge, but something else. Below is a link with a bunch of pictures. Most of the pictures have nothing to do with Southridge, but the ones that do say it all….she’s gone.

    Jordan Creek is marvelous, simply marvelous…but the hideous gaping hole that used to be Southridge, as well as the alarming number of gaping holes that are empty stores at Valley West, and especially, Merle Hay are a stark, vivid, and ugly picture of the price we pay to have it.* And that painfully high price tag tempers, and somewhat dampens the love I have for it. If we lose Merle Hay like we lost [what I’ll term] “Old Southridge” (which does seem at least a remote possibility in the next few years, unless there’s a turn-around), then that will probably temper, and dampen that love even further.

    *=Old Southridge was in trouble before Jordan Creek came, and Merle Hay was not at it’s all time high either. Moreoever, Old Southridge did manage to hang on for nearly eight whole years after Jordan Creek opened. So we certainly can’t lay 100% of the blame of the Old Southridge failure on Jordan Creek. Frankly, the darkened economy, and the rise of online retail are probably the biggest factors, factors which haven’t left even the venerable Jordan Creek unscathed. Yet, it’s clear that introducing a juggernaut like Jordan Creek into the fiscal ecosystem was a huge contributor as well.

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