City council approves Conestoga Mall area blighted study proposal

This moves the proposal to the Hall County Regional Planning Commission
Grand Island city council members voted to approve a measure that could lead to a study to...
Grand Island city council members voted to approve a measure that could lead to a study to determine whether or not the mall property is ‘extremely blighted.’(HAILEY MACH, KSNB)
Published: Sep. 13, 2022 at 9:50 PM CDT
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GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (KSNB) - Big changes may be on the way to the Conestoga Mall Area.

In a unanimous 10-0 vote Tuesday night, Grand Island city council members voted to approve a measure that could lead to a study to determine whether or not the mall property is ‘extremely blighted.’

The idea of the study was first presented before the council in 2018, but with lack of a reliable redeveloper, the study never happened.

Now, a new redevelopment company has shown interest in transforming the property, some council members saying they’re “excited” for what is on the table.

Chad Nabity, planning director of the Hall County Regional Planning Commission said, though the area is looking to be redeveloped — the mall itself is here to stay.

“Not an end to Conestoga Mall, but an end to the mall as it is right now, and a new beginning for what they’re proposing,” said Nabity.

Mitch Hohlen, a representative of Woodsonia Real Estate Group out of Omaha spoke before council members Tuesday. Hohlen began by saying he is originally from Hastings and grew up visiting the Conestoga Mall. Since returning to the mall in recent times, he noted, the place had a different feel to it.

Hohlen told the council members the Woodsonia group is looking to completely renovate both the interior and exterior of the mall, as well as its surrounding area. This would include the parking lot being redone, more space for retail and potentially a hotel.

Nabity noted, this would be a $150-200 million investment.

Before redevelopment can happen, the blighted study is essential to move forward with the project.

“Blighted and substandard is a term of art, and if an area is declared blighted and substandard, it has certain characteristics, one of the primary ones is that the buildings are 40 years old or older,” said Nabity, explaining the meaning behind the word ‘blighted.’ “The mall was built in 1972-73, so this certainly qualifies, and most of the buildings around the area were also built before the early 1980′s.”

Now that the council has approved the measure, it moves to the desk of the Hall County Regional Planning Commission. Upon approval with the planning commissioners, the measure would then be sent back to the city council to hold a public hearing in late October.