A large Midwest automotive group is eyeing opening a dealership in an Altoona development that includes an outlet shopping center, restaurants and hotels.

Officials with Gurley Leep Automotive Family, headquartered in Indiana, are seeking an amendment in an Altoona ordinance to allow construction of a dealership in the area, which is visible from Interstate Highway 80. The proposed development would be located on the west side of Bass Pro Drive Northwest in Altoona. (See map.) An on-ramp to Interstate 80 borders the western edge of the parcel.

The 14.3-acre parcel is located in an area known as Prairie Crossing that includes the Outlets of Des Moines, Johnny’s Italian Steakhouse, Burger Shed, two hotels, Bass Pro Shops, a convenience store with fuel pumps, and a coffee shop.

The area’s permitted uses currently do not include car dealerships.

The proposed dealership “would be a great addition to Prairie Crossing,” said Quad Cities businessman Mike Whalen, whose Heart of America Group is developing the 200-plus-acre development. “We’re really excited about it. The people who go out and look at cars, test drive cars also like to eat and go shopping.”

If the proposed development moves forward, it would be Altoona’s first new-vehicle dealership.
The City Council has approved the first two readings of the proposed ordinance amendment. The council is expected to consider the final reading at its meeting on Sept. 20.

According to a city document, about half of the 14 acres would include a Honda dealership. A Jeep dealership could be built on other half of the parcel in the future, city documents show.
Two council members, in the first discussion on the amendment, said they were opposed to allowing a car dealership in the highly visible area, according to meeting minutes. Other council members noted that the dealership building should match the Prairie-style design prevalent throughout Prairie Crossing.

Gurley Leep operates dealerships in Iowa, Indiana, Michigan and Illinois.

Mike Leep Jr., the group’s president, could not be reached for comment.

However, he told AsumeTech in July that the group planned to move Dave Wright Honda in Marshalltown to the Altoona location. Gurley Leep recently purchased the Marshalltown franchise. Leep told the publication that the proposed Altoona dealership would include a 30,000-square-foot facility and that it would likely open in mid-2023. He said it would be called Honda of Altoona.

Gurley Leep operates Smart Honda at 11206 Hickman Road in Clive.It also operates dealerships in the Quad Cities.