How Retail Properties in Altoona, Iowa Help Build Community

Commercial Retail Real Estate

It’s not as simple as, “If you build it, they will come”. With ghostly baseball fields being the only real exception, creating widely loved public gathering spaces requires more than mere intuition. Every step of the process needs to be driven by purpose.

If you build it with longevity, usability, inclusion, and enjoyment in mind—then they will come. What’s more, they’ll do it regularly, likely bolstering the local economy.

As the retail industry adapts to keep up with ever-changing market demands, integrating community-centric strategies has proven crucial for fostering sustainable growth and enhancing local economies.

Altoona, Iowa, exemplifies how such initiatives in commercial real estate can benefit a wide range of stakeholders, from business owners and employees to local residents and visitors. By investing in retail spaces that serve as vibrant community hubs, Altoona not only enriches the local shopping experience but also fortifies the social and economic fabric of the community.

Keep reading to learn more about community-centric retail, what it entails, and how Altoona is harnessing it to promote Iowa economic development and a higher quality of life in the Greater Des Moines area.

Understanding Community-Centric Retail

Community-centric retail is about more than creating spaces where people buy and sell things. It’s about helping people find a “third place”, fostering a sense of belonging and connection that extends beyond homes and workplaces.

The key to achieving this? Investing in functional, well-designed commercial real estate that supports a wide range of uses by diverse tenant businesses.

According to the Building Design+Construction Network, “By curating a diverse mix of retail, dining, entertainment, and recreational offerings, shopping centers can serve as gathering points where communities come together to shop, dine, socialize, and participate in a variety of activities.”

In other words, commerce is just one part of the equation. To be successful, the modern shopping center needs to (in part) double as an event venue. It’s a big task, sure. But it’s worth the investment.

Boosting the Local Economy

The rise of community-oriented retail developments has proven to be a substantial economic catalyst for cities embracing this approach. Take the Outlets of Des Moines in Altoona, Iowa for example.

Beyond diversifying the local retail landscape, attracting over 50 different stores ranging from renowned national chains to unique local boutiques, this shopping center has also become a key driver of economic activity in the region.

This has generated a plethora of jobs and circulated a great deal of spending back within the local community. It’s also helped attract millions of high-spending visitors to Altoona, who contribute to the city’s impressive $677 million in annual retail sales.

Enhancing Social Engagement

Thoughtfully designed retail centers can also serve as hubs for social interaction and community engagement. For example, the Outlets of Des Moines hosts a variety of events each year that draw large crowds and create memorable shared experiences.

Consumers at their Midwest Local Vendor Markets can interact directly with tons of locally crafted goods, as well as the people who created them.

As of 2023, shoppers and festive revelers alike can also take in the sights, sounds, and special offerings of Jolly Holiday Lights—a recent example of how retail centers can serve as catalysts for social enhancement.

Previously, guests would experience the festive displays from the confines of their vehicles, limiting interaction and engagement. The new immersive, walkable setting of Jolly Holiday Lights invites attendees to stroll through, interact with one another, and enjoy the festive atmosphere in a setting that encourages communal participation and enjoyment.

Promoting Accessibility & Inclusivity

Inclusive, accessible retail spaces are more than just a legal and ethical imperative. They are a practical investment in the community’s future, as seen with events like Jolly Holiday Lights at the Outlets of Des Moines.

This involves designing spaces that are navigable for everyone, including seniors and those with disabilities, employing features such as:

  • Ramps and Elevators: Ensuring that all levels are accessible to people who use wheelchairs or other mobility aids.
  • Visual Aids: Implementing clear signage with large, readable fonts and high contrast for those with visual impairments.
  • Interactive Elements: Offering sensory-friendly spaces for individuals with sensory sensitivities, such as quieter areas away from the main hustle and bustle.

To truly resonate with a broad audience, community-centric retail centers must also offer programs and events that reflect the cultural, ethnic, and social diversity of the area. This can include multicultural festivals, markets that feature local artisans from various backgrounds, and events that celebrate different community groups.

Strategic Real Estate Development in Altoona

Altoona’s approach to commercial real estate involves meticulous planning to maximize the utility of commercial properties. The City actively promotes collaboration among developers, residents, and government partners to ensure new developments and revitalization projects align with long-term economic goals and sustainability efforts.

Altoona also offers a lot of helpful services and resources to businesses engaged in leasing, buying, or constructing new facilities—making it easier for retail companies of all sizes to take root.

The community’s strategic location along major transportation routes (like I-80 and U.S. 65) further enhances its appeal as a commercial hub, facilitating easy travel for visitors and residents alike.


Community-centric retail in Altoona not only boosts the local commercial property market but also strengthens community ties and enhances the overall quality of life.

Through strategic development and community engagement, Altoona is setting a benchmark for how cities can harness the potential of retail properties to foster economic growth and community well-being. These efforts showcase how thoughtful retail development can lead to a thriving, connected, and resilient community.

Find Altoona Commercial Real Estate

If you’re a retail business owner looking to find commercial real estate in Iowa, or a developer seeking out commercial land for sale in Iowa, you should begin your search in the City of Altoona!

Altoona has an abundance of commercial buildings and development-ready sites to choose from. Take the Prairie Crossing area, for example. Prairie Crossing offers 120 acres of mixed-use development space and roughly 400,000 square feet of premier retail space for lease and/or purchase. It’s located next to the Outlets of Des Moines and is already home to popular dining, retail, and hospitality businesses.

What’s more, the City of Altoona’s extensive inventory of commercial buildings for sale is supported by valuable incentives like Tax Increment Financing (TIF) and others.

Whether you’re starting new or planning an Iowa relocation for your company, let Altoona be your business-friendly home for growth. Search our business real estate database or request additional information to learn more.