What Will it Take to Make Kennedy Mall a Vibrant Community Space?
It's no secret that the popularity of shopping malls has waned across the country, with many closing their doors and fading into commercial real estate oblivion.
So with some curious trepidation, I made my way to take a tour of Dubuque's Kennedy Mall to see how the City's shopping landmark has stood against the test of time and competition from Amazon, online shopping, and newer shopping centers.
There were many impressive attributes including its clean, well-maintained spaces and several recognizable retail stores. In that sense, the Kennedy Mall has much going for it.
Once heralded as one of Iowa's cutting-edge indoor shopping centers, the Kennedy Mall was the center of Dubuque's retail scene through much of the 1970s and 1980s. At its start, several significant stores left downtown for the trendier Westend. Including prominent names like Roshek's, Montgomery Wards, and eventually JCPenny, Younkers, Sears and Armstrong's moving in during the 1980s.
Today, the Kennedy Mall remains mostly intact despite tornado damage and several renovations since it formally opened its doors on April 15, 1970.
The Mall's heyday is a distant memory, but there remains much to keep the place buzzing with Mall Walkers and shoppers, albeit without the significant retail anchors of yesteryear. As a result, the Mall provides a pleasant indoor environment but lacks strong drawing power.
Nevertheless, it still plays a prominent role in the Dubuque retail scene with several stores selling shoes, clothing, and sporting goods. Additionally, Planet Fitness, several small retailers, and jewelers continue to draw folks to meander the hallways with pleasant-sounding music emanating over the sound system.
Hosting the Winter Farmer's Market is a terrific use of space. A few more additions could include repurposed and dynamic community hub spaces, governmental services, and a senior or youth center. Community meeting rooms, theatre, coworking, art studio spaces, community college classrooms, and a Westend library branch could also be excellent draws to the once vibrant Mall.
With the cold winter weather and windy, chilly Spring, there's still something to be said for a climate-controlled indoor space where people could meet up at a unique gathering spot and enjoy walkable square footage like that available at the Kennedy Mall.
Overall the Mall remains an enjoyable place. Perhaps more market research may be in order, but if you build it, they will come.
Learn more about current Mall events, activities, and retailers at kennedymall.com