FORT DODGE, Iowa — Ben Johnson is the owner of Taco Tico, a Fort Dodge staple since the 1970s. Over the years, he has seen the changes the city has gone through.
"There's been a lot of retail that's been closing down and leaving," Johnson said. "You see other communities that are starting to get that back, but we haven't quite yet."
But right outside his doors, that's changing.
"People are excited for the opportunities," said Chad Schaeffer, chief development officer for Fort Dodge. "Fort Dodge is 25,000 people, though we serve 100,000 people. That's what we're really trying to accomplish here is not only serve the people of Fort Dodge and Webster County, but all the surrounding counties."
Those people will be attracted to the new Corridor Plaza which will bring a combination of retail, entertainment, a hotel and a mixed-use facility.
"The Pavilion is kind of an indoor-outdoor space that'll open up into the plaza, that'll be for all events (like) volleyball, basketball, concerts and weddings," said BJ Stokebary, CEO of ATI Group, the company developing the project.
The part of the now-closed mall that still stands is getting transformed from the inside out.
Stokesbary said one of the goals of the project is to create something sustainable.
That's key because the $17 million the Iowa Economic Development Authority approved for the project is set to be paid out over 20 years from the developments tax revenue that would have otherwise gone to the state.
"That's the challenge," Schaeffer said. "Make sure we're putting a quality project together so that we can realize those benefits for sales tax, and then we can pay off our debt over time."
Back at Taco Tico, Johnson expects good things for his community.
"I think it'll be great on Saturday and Sundays, Friday nights. I think it'll really be a good draw to bring people in and they'll actually have something fun to do while they're here," he said.
The first could move at the end of 2022 or early 2023. The city is still looking to convince retailers to open a location in Fort Dodge.