Jason Hancock's Commentary:

Posted January 29, 2013 (user submitted)

Duck Creek Plaza is located at the intersection of Kimberly and Middle Roads in Bettendorf, a city that is part of the "Quad Cities" area on the Mississippi River along with neighboring Davenport, Iowa, and Moline and Rock Island, Illinois. It opened August 18, 1960, as an outdoor mall anchored by a Younkers department store and an Eagle grocery store (a regional chain that went out of business in 2003). Duck Creek was built by General Management, which later became General Growth Properties, and is notable for being the first GGP mall to have a department store as an anchor.

Several changes occurred to Duck Creek Plaza in the early 1970s. First, in 1972, Davenport-based Petersen Harned Von Maur placed its first mall-based department store at Duck Creek, replacing some inline store space. A year later, Duck Creek completed an expansion that included some enclosed retail space, along with the Duck Creek Twin Cinemas and an office building that served as the headquarters for Bettendorf Bank. All this occurred while GGP was building the Quad Cities' two fully-enclosed malls, NorthPark Mall in Davenport and its sister, SouthPark Mall in Moline. Also, Interstate 74 was built east of Duck Creek during that decade, improving access to the mall but limiting any future expansion.

The biggest change to Duck Creek Plaza, though, came in 1985 when the entire mall became enclosed (although it kept the "Plaza" name). By then, Marshalls had replaced Eagle as an anchor, joining Younkers and Von Maur. A new main entrance was built facing the intersection of Kimberly and Middle Roads. The Twin Cinemas closed in mid-1987, shortly after I saw Disney's 50th-anniversary reissue of Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs there, but Shoe Carnival took over its spot a short time later.

When the 1990s dawned, Duck Creek Plaza had three anchors and around 60 stores, including mainstays like Bishop's Buffet and Walgreens that had been around since day one. Duck Creek had a mix of regional/national chains (Claire's, Disc Jockey Records, Fannie May, GNC, Talbots, Waldenbooks, and the aforementioned Shoe Carnival, to name a few) and local retailers. The East Kimberly Road corridor also featured a Kmart to the north of the mall and a Target to the south. But by then, NorthPark and SouthPark had both expanded to five anchors and over 100 stores apiece. Two of those anchors, Von Maur and Younkers, were also anchors at Duck Creek. NorthPark and SouthPark also have food courts, which Duck Creek lacked. Also, NorthPark is only four miles from Duck Creek via Kimberly Road, and SouthPark is only six miles away via I-74, which made Duck Creek seem like the also-ran of the Quad Cities' enclosed malls considering that you could drive to either of the larger malls in 10 to 15 minutes.

By 1998, General Growth Properties gave up managing all three of the Quad Cities' malls as the company had moved its headquarters from Des Moines to Chicago. NorthPark and SouthPark ended up in the hands of Simon Property Group, who still manages the malls today. Duck Creek, meanwhile, was taken over by the Equity Growth Group, a local developer. Facing stiff competition from NorthPark, SouthPark, and the emerging big box corridor near the interchange of I-74 and 53rd Street two miles to the north, Duck Creek began its downhill slide. Von Maur was the first anchor to leave, closing its Duck Creek store in late 1999, and Younkers followed suit in early 2001. Rumors of Famous-Barr (which ultimately became Macy's) moving into Younkers' space never materialized. Many inline stores, both national and local, also closed or relocated as their leases expired. As Bettendorf Bank went through a series of acquisitions, most recently by Wells Fargo, it had moved out of Duck Creek Plaza by the end of the millennium as well. But a new bank, THE National Bank, set up shop at the Duck Creek office tower in early 2001.

The decline was not limited to Duck Creek Plaza itself, either. Kmart and Target both left the Kimberly Road corridor in the mid-1990s. Part of Kmart's space would be taken over by Hobby Lobby, which is still there, and the rest was taken over by Stein Mart until it closed. Shopko replaced Target for a few years after the latter moved to a new Super Target near the aforementioned I-74/53rd Street interchange in 1996, but Shopko closed its Bettendorf store in early 2001. A neighboring grocery store, JoeVan Foods, closed a short time later, leaving that strip mall completely vacant and that area of Bettendorf and east Davenport without a grocery store.

With the Duck Creek Plaza roster reduced to Marshalls, Walgreens, Bishop's Buffet, Talbots, Shoe Carnival, and a handful of specialty stores by 2002, talks of redeveloping the mall began to get louder. In January 2003 the Bettendorf City Council approved a redevelopment plan from Equity Growth and The Daly Group of Chicago that would convert Duck Creek into a strip mall. The new mall would include free-standing Home Depot and Walgreens stores, a new Marshalls store, a Schnucks supermarket, and two buildings to house smaller tenants. The existing mall was demolished in stages, with only THE National Bank's office tower remaining from the original mall structure. In addition to Marshalls and Walgreens, some of the remaining Duck Creek businesses (including Kile's Hallmark and Gulliver's Travel) opted to stay on the property while other businesses either moved elsewhere (including Shoe Carnival and Talbots) or closed altogether (notably Bishop's).

Home Depot and the new Walgreens -- fitting the company's "modern corner drugstore" motif -- opened in December 2003. The rest of the original mall was demolished in early 2004 to make room for Schnucks and a new parking lot. The new Marshalls opened in May 2004, while the remaining tenants from the old mall settled into the new buildings along Middle Road. McDonald's opened a new restaurant on the site shortly afterwards, and the first Starbucks in the Quad Cities opened in one of the new buildings in January 2005. The St. Louis-based Schnucks opened its only Iowa supermarket to date in May 2005 amid much fanfare, and the redevelopment of Duck Creek Plaza was completed by the end of 2005. The vacant strip mall south of Duck Creek Plaza was demolished a few years later to make room for a new development called "The Shoppes at Duck Creek" anchored by a free-standing Burlington Coat Factory.

Links: - 2002 article by John Willard of the Quad-City Times on the history of Duck Creek Plaza near the end of its days as an enclosed mall.

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