News flash: new retail around Jordan Creek hurts older business districts

In one of the least surprising stories I've seen lately, the Des Moines Register reported on Saturday that retail sales increased by 500 percent between 2004 and 2006 in the parts of West Des Moines that are in Dallas County (around the Jordan Creek mall, which opened in 2004, and the several other strip malls in the area).

“We knew this was going on, but we didn't know the magnitude of losses, especially to the city of Des Moines,” said David Swenson, a research scientist and economist at ISU, who completed the study with Liesl Eathington, an ISU economist.

It was obvious from the beginning that Jordan Creek and the explosion of big box stores were going to hurt business at existing shopping malls and strip malls in the metro area.

Mall officials had said Jordan Creek would draw shoppers from at least a 100-mile radius, but the declines in nearby cities suggest that the booming retail center in West Des Moines is adding shoppers at the expense of places like Des Moines, the portion of West Des Moines that sits in Polk County, Perry, Guthrie Center, Earlham and Adel.

The shift in shopping patterns has also siphoned away local-option sales tax revenue from Polk County school districts.

Thanks to these economists for pointing out the direct connection between the explosion of new retail in Dallas County and the funding shortfalls of school districts in Polk County. The Des Moines Public Schools have been most affected, but even the West Des Moines School District has had to cut back on some school renovation plans because of funding shortfalls.

One thing I would have liked to see in this article is some detail about how much taxpayer money has gone to subsidize the sprawl in the Jordan Creek area.

Polk County residents might have some clue that the new shopping out west is hurting the older malls and businesses in the metro area, but are they aware that they have paid for much of the infrastructure supporting these new shopping centers west of Des Moines?

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