After 30-plus years in technology, which included creating several successful IT companies Mark Kittrell of Cedar Falls, headed down a new career path in 2012 when he started Eagle View Partners, a company focused on mixed-use developments that combine residential, commercial and lifestyle amenities.
River Place, his initial “walkable community” along the downtown riverfront in Cedar Falls, caught the eye of Marion leaders who sought him out to develop a similar project in the Uptown district. As a result, the city approved Eagle View’s Broad and Main development plan for Marion in early 2021. The first phase, Broad and Main on 7th, a three-story mixed-use property, is expected to be completed this summer. Work on Broad and Main on 6th is underway and should be done by summer 2023.
The CBJ talked with Mr. Kittrell about his career change, attraction to walkable communities and expansion into the Corridor.
Why did you start Eagle View Partners?
I traveled a lot in my career and saw communities like Madison, Wisconsin, Minneapolis and Des Moines building this urban style of housing that was so attractive to young people. I heard a statistic that most millennials decided where they wanted to live first, and then they decided where they would work or what they would do once they decided where they wanted to live. In my mind, if we couldn’t start building the kind of housing and the kind of fun places to live in a community like Cedar Falls or Cedar Rapids or Iowa City, we weren’t going to get kids to want to stay or move here.
After focusing on development in the Cedar Valley, how did you expand to Marion?
The Marion mayor and the head of economic development MEDCO, both named Nick (AbouAssaly and Glew), are a very, very persuasive team. They had been watching what we were doing in Cedar Falls and liked what was happening in our downtown projects. They have a plan and a vision for the Uptown area, and they’re obviously growing nicely but were looking to build a center for the community. They really pursued us for a long time and said, ‘you should really think about coming to Marion.’ Honestly, I was a little slow to do so because I thought I was going to retire. But I finally came down there, and I was so impressed that we ended up deciding that we were going to try and expand into Marion, and it’s been a great success.
What impressed you about Marion?
I was really impressed with the mayor’s vision, as well as the city manager, the head of development planning and city staff. The council actually made a road trip to Cedar Falls. So, from the city’s perspective, we found them to be just really good people and very good to work with. We also really took a look around and found great support in the realtors in the area and the other developers. We could see that there was a lot of activity going on in both commercial and residential development, and that kind of activity, or energy, also boded very well. The third thing that we really enjoyed about Marion is we really like the historic connections with the train and the history. We really liked the square and the potential to honor and tell the story of the community’s importance with the trains and the development of Iowa.
What is the attraction of living, working and playing in a district?
Cedar Rapids has a very vibrant downtown; Des Moines has a very vibrant downtown. We’ve shown that smaller communities like Cedar Falls and now Marion can have the same sort of vibrancy and lifestyle. What people really come to appreciate is there are a lot of amenities available when you live in that sort of an area, whether it be a place to eat, places to get your hair done or spas and those sorts of things, they are very walkable. We really try to find those kinds of amenities and build them in a very convenient way for people. They’re also great places to eat, drink, and socialize with friends. We really saw the green shoots of a food scene in Marion, and we’re certainly going to do what we can to encourage that as well.
How does an urban center complement existing shops, bars and restaurants?
If you have, for example, in the downtown area a city hall, banks and a library, that’s going to create a fair amount of daytime traffic. But in the evening, when you add people actually living there, then you really see the dinner hours with a lot of activity as well. So, it really extends the day for the businesses in the area.
Are any other projects upcoming around the state?
We are looking at other communities around the upper Midwest. We see that the state of Iowa needs to have young people both stay after college and also consider moving in. We’re tickled that Cedar Falls was just named one of the best places nationally to retire. We certainly want to see the Boomers stay at least part of the year and also to have other people from outside consider relocating to Iowa and considering retiring here. We really see our style of housing and this kind of development as the perfect thing to really help both of those trends along.