ALTOONA, Iowa -- Not too long ago, Altoona was just another small suburb of Des Moines. There was the Adventureland amusement park, a casino, and a couple of big box stores, but that was about it.
Over the last decade, though, the growth has been amazing. A new movie theater. A new sporting goods store. It feels like around every corner you can find a construction crew, and soon it will become the retail destination for the metro.
“It’s pretty amazing. Pretty exciting for Altoona,” said Dean O’Connor, the city's interim mayor.
On Tuesday, metro leaders got to tour the new addition to the Altoona arsenal, a 300,000 square foot facility that will house some of the top retail stores.
Opening in October will be the Outlets of Des Moines.
“Another great entity to the whole metro area. There is no doubt that number one thing visitors do when they visit any city is they shop,” said Greg Edwards of the Des Moines Conventions and Visitors Bureau.
O’Connor was excited to talk about growth of his city. He credits two items: a shift in thinking and limiting tax increases. He said for decades, the residents in Altoona wanted to remain a small town and push back against growth. But after watching similar suburbs like Ankeny and West Des Moines blow up, they knew something needed to be done.
One of the things he most proud of is that they’ve done most of this expansion pretty much without raising property taxes; they've only gone up 0.5% over the last seven years.
“We have 12 residential developments going in right now and all this space out here at Prairie Crossing with the outlet mall and some new hotels and new restaurants. Altoona is really at a full sprint right now. We’re excited about it,” said Mayor O’Connor.
The outlet is expected to bring $100 million in revenue annually and generate $6 million in sales tax alone. The additional tax revenue will help continue their plans for expansion.
“There is so many things you do and see and experience, but also live in this great community. The next 15 years are going to be explosive here,” said O'Connor.
Retailers that occupy the mall still need to hire hundreds of employees. To do so, they will hold an open job fair on September 6th at Prairie Meadows Casino.