911: Resuscitating a Dead Mall

Once on the Dead Malls list, the former Sycamore Mall made a huge comeback and is now a vibrant and unique shopping and entertainment destination known as the Iowa City Marketplace.


Thriving tenants anchored each end, but the middle space remained empty. Bringing this space back to life meant taking a holistic approach. The mall had undergone multiple additions over a period of time resulting in different roof elevations. This spells trouble when taking out walls to open up interior space.

Save the owner money by working with a structural engineer early to determine what structure can be moved in a cost-effective way. An assessment of the walls identified lengths of load bearing walls and shear walls that could be removed while maintaining the structural integrity of the building. Larger storefront openings were created for multiple tenants.  


Institutional knowledge revealed that a movie theater was once housed in the mall. Once the recessed seating/floor was sited then the deeper foundations could be located. Once all the structural hot spots were identified, Sycamore Mall was gutted, reconfigured and reconstructed to become the Iowa City Marketplace.

Larger tenants including JoAnn Fabrics and Planet Fitness reoriented their exterior to improve visibility and pedestrian activity. Exterior and interior updates continue to accommodate new tenants.

Iowa City Marketplace is breathing life back into the community and restoring economic vitality.  

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If you have seen the recent “Pet Sematary” reboot, you know that reanimation can sometimes be a tricky business!  

Each project has its own unique challenges! With our experience we have learned some cost-effective ways to successfully re-tenant the big boxes that have been left behind for our cities and building owners to deal with. By working together, Shive-Hattery’s architects and structural engineers are excited to take on any challenge to help these properties again become an active and vibrant part of our communities.


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