TWIN FALLS — The City Council on Feb. 5 approved a new development agreement for the Magic Valley Mall — one that will allow the mall to more easily bring in new restaurants, parking garages and housing as they’re needed.
Brent White, regional manager for Woodbury Corp., told the Council the new agreement would immediately give Twin Falls an opportunity to bring in a restaurant. Although he didn’t name names, it’s highly speculated to be Olive Garden.
“Right now we’re concluding negotiations with a restaurant — one that’s been very much in demand for decades,” White said. “We’re finally very close.”
When Councilman Chris Talkington joked about making White tell the Council the name of the restaurant as a condition for approval, White added, “If you like Italian food, I think you’ll be happy.”
An Olive Garden spokeswoman previously confirmed in an email to the Times-News that the company was looking at the Twin Falls area — and several other cities — for future restaurants. City staff have also said the company has been asking questions.
Under the new zoning agreement the Council approved, the Magic Valley Mall will be allowed to bring in businesses that can serve alcohol without a special use permit. In the past, a special use permit has been required, and that process takes time and additional hearings. The agreement affects the original mall site.
White explained that when a restaurant approached Woodbury Corp. about eight months ago, it had specifically asked whether it would be allowed to have alcohol on premises. The company was budgeting to open 10 restaurants this year.
“They said to us ... ‘We would like to put one in Twin Falls, but unless you can be really confident, we don’t want to waste our time and our opportunities,” White said.
“They put us in a position where we need to be responsive or else we lose that opportunity to other communities.”
White assured the Council that the mall would allow such uses responsibly.
The new agreement also allows the Magic Valley Mall to build a parking structure and construct drive-throughs without a special use permit. It also makes some changes to parking, landscaping and residential lot size requirements. Finally, retail operations — including restaurants — will no longer have to get a special use permit to operate outside of the hours of 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
White showed the Council an example of what a future mall could look like, with an organic grocery store, a splash park and all-ages entertainment. The new agreement allows the mall to become mixed-use and bring in office buildings and residential units such as condominiums.
Woodbury Corp., based in Salt Lake City, is turning 100 this year. It’s a company that’s used to seeing a lot of change, White said.
Woodbury Corp. has brought more than 100 stores to Twin Falls over the years, he said. These employ 1,000 to 1,500 people at any point in time, with sales exceeding $150 million.
But the Magic Valley Mall has had some bad news in recent months. Sears announced its closure beginning with the auto center this month, and Macy’s will close by April. The mall ownership, however, remains positive about the future.
“I think we’re starting a new chapter,” White said. “Our entire company is excited about it.”
Councilman Greg Lanting and Mayor Shawn Barigar noted the mall’s interest in housing and mixed-use is consistent with the city’s goal for downtown.
“There’s no reason that can’t be another place for those types of things,” Barigar said.
Also at the meeting, the Council approved annexation and zoning for a parcel of land just east of the mall on Pole Line Road. The vacant canyon-rim development known as Rio Vista is planned to have a mix of commercial and residential properties — including townhomes. It surrounds the former YMCA branch, which is being remodeled into a retail store.
The city’s environmental engineer, Jason Brown, also updated the Council on odor complaints and issues along Hankins Road. Chobani discovered a malfunction in its wastewater pre-treatment facility and is working on additional repairs, he said. City spokesman Joshua Palmer later explained to the Times-News that the fans in the facility were drying out the micro-organisms that assist in the pre-treatment process. Chobani is having more testing done, Brown said.
“We should be able to hopefully resolve this situation shortly,” he said.
The City Council also:
- Presented Tina Kelly with her POST advanced communications specialist certificate.
- Approved a request to re-allocate funds to cover ADA related improvements at the Twin Falls Golf Club.
- Waived a non-confirming building expansion permit process for a residence at 451 Fifth Ave. N.
- Approved a zoning change and map amendment at 1211 Addison Ave. W. to allow property owner John Lucas to bring a used car dealership to John’s U-Pull U-Save, a salvage yard.