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Kohl’s receives preliminary approval for design of new department store at Merle Hay Mall


Kohl’s plans to build a new store at Merle Hay Mall on the site where Sears had been located. The building that housed Sears has been demolished. Kohl’s, which currently is located on the west side of the mall property, expects to move into its new store by spring 2022. The renderings above show the front of the new store, which will face Merle Hay Road, and the south side of the structure. Rendering by Richard L. Bowen Associates Inc.



The preliminary design for a new Kohl’s store planned at Merle Hay Mall was approved by a Des Moines board this week, but not before members expressed concerns about a lack of information about pedestrian and vehicle movement on the entire mall site.

The issue is not new.

In December, Urban Design Review Board members provided input on the mall’s proposed master plan and some raised similar concerns about traffic and pedestrian patterns.

Steve Wilke-Shapiro, a board member and an architect, on Tuesday said the issues had not been addressed.

“What we’re creating is a sort of placeless place for what’s going to end up being a massive public investment,” he said.

Naomi Hamlett, Des Moines’ economic development coordinator, told board members that they would review an updated master plan in coming weeks but that the decision on the proposed Kohl’s project only concerned the design of the building.

Kohl’s will own only its new building not the ground that surrounds the structure, Hamlett said. Mall property owners will address issues related to pedestrian and vehicle movement patterns in the master plans, she said.

Last November, mall owners announced that space previously occupied by a Younkers department store would be transformed into a 3,500-seat multipurpose arena that would be the new home of the Des Moines Buccaneers hockey team. The arena, construction of which is expected to be completed by December 2023, would include four sheets of ice, all with bleacher seating, to host additional games, practices and tournaments.

In addition, a multistory hotel would be attached to the arena and training center.

That redevelopment is planned on the west side of the mall in an area that includes the current Kohl’s store. The national retailer plans to relocate to a new 55,000-square-foot store that would be located on the site previously occupied by the Sears department store. The former Sears building has been razed and Hamlett said grading is expected to begin soon.

“We don’t want to slow down any momentum here,” Hamlett told board members. “We want to keep Kohl’s going.”

The retailer plans to begin construction of its new store in September and be finished by March 2022, according to city documents. Construction costs of the building are estimated at $2.8 million.

The new Kohl’s would face the heavily traveled Merle Hay Road. Additional retail stores are planned north of the new Kohl’s store, mall owners have said.

A pedestrian courtyard is proposed between the south side of the new Kohl’s store and the mall’s north entry. The courtyard will include a walkway, green space, benches, lighting and a play area for the children who attend a day care located in the mall.

The mall property straddles the municipal boundaries of Des Moines and Urbandale.

Hamlett told board members that officials from the two cities are working with mall owners on the site’s master plan. They are working on issues related to stormwater retention and pedestrian and vehicle traffic.

Des Moines and Urbandale officials also want the master plan for a redeveloped Merle Hay Mall “to be the best it can possibly be,” she said.

The Urban Design Review Board approved the preliminary designs for the Kohl’s project. The retailer must receive final approval before the project can move forward.

Rendering above: A pedestrian plaza is planned between a new Kohl’s department store (building on right) and Merle Hay Mall. Rendering by Woolpert Architects

Related article: How an email set in motion a proposal to transform empty store space into a multiuse arena



Rubble is all that is left of the former Sears department store that was one of Merle Hay Mall’s original anchors. The store has been razed. A Kohl’s store is planned on the site. Photo by Joe Crimmings


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