Situated smack-dab in the middle of Facebook's data center campus, Adventureland amusement park, Prairie Meadows casino, I-80, Hwy 65/69, and Bass Pro Shop is Altoona's newest shopping and entertainment hot spot: the Outlets of Des Moines.
The long-awaited grand opening happened last weekend and like the hordes of other curious consumers, I ventured over to Altoona from West Des Moines to get a glimpse of it all myself.
The project has been in the works for awhile and many on the east side of Polk County believe it will be the catalyst for a further explosion of development. Up until now, most of the growth has only been prominent in the north and west parts of the metro.
To be clear, central Iowa already had a dearth of retail options even before this latest outdoor mall opened.
Not to mention, online sales continue to eat a bigger chunk of the market year-after-year. That said, the relatively nice mid-October brought out a lot of shoppers. I went mostly to wander, explore, and to find lunch.
They have a food "pavillion" but I could only find two eateries in place. There looked like there was room for a few more.
Instead, they invited a number of food trucks to come out, as well as a local brewery, and a mobile coffee company.
I found myself some street tacos and a cup of highlander grog coffee for lunch.
In addition to the extra food and beverage vendors, they also had some life music performances at several spots - including on a large stage in the nexus of several wings of the mall.
But they didn't stop there - I also spotted some Disney princesses and they had a storefront where kids could visit Santa. Keep in mind, this was October 22 - almost two months before Christmas, 10 days before Halloween, and a month before Thanksgiving.
The actual set up of the mall? It's nice. They have several wings that intersect with each other and you can take short-cuts through indoor hallways that also happen to be where the restrooms and soda vending machines are located. Many of the stores are recognizable brand names, and it was clear that more stores are on the way. In areas, there are covers to protect against the weather or offer some shade. Additionally, in the medians, there were a number of nice features such as lamps, flower gardens, seating, and even fire elements.
One thing that really jumped out to me was the array of "activities" available - that were outside of the usual shopping or eating that one might do at a mall. One area was a large retail space named "Break Away Lounge" which had seating, televisions, snacks, drinks, and even other games such as bags (sometimes reffered to as cornhole).
Elsewhere, I spotted a sign for some free mini-golf, indoor go-karts racing, and laser tag. Clearly, the idea is to make it a destination for fun, food, and shopping "finds".
All in all, it's very nicely orchestrated and there is ample parking. The area around it will only continue to fill in with more development, restaurants, shops, hotels, and more. I will be interested to see how the place matures, over the next couple of years, as they add in more stores and more restaurant options. In the meantime, it's worth checking out in person and take a look at their Facebook and website.
As always, I welcome your suggestions of places to visit and profile whether in Polk County or any of the other 98 counties in Iowa. If you have a good idea or would like to host the Iowa Adventurer, please drop me a note through this website.