NORTH LIBERTY– In the 1989 movie Field of Dreams, the phrase “if you build it, they will come” was coined. In 2011 Dr. Ryan Veatch said to himself, “If you build something nice, hopefully people will notice and come to it.”
An optometrist by trade, and owner of Blink Vision by Veatch, Dr. Veatch’s vision transformed a vacant parcel of land at the corner of Hwy. 965 and West Cherry St. in North Liberty into a thriving and upscale commercial development. Construction on StoneBridge Promenade began in the fall of 2011, and businesses began opening their doors this spring.
The success saga began in the spring of 2011 when the doctor began scouting out locations for a new office to house his practice. He was in a former dentist’s office in a commercial development in Oakdale, and had outgrown the facility. North Liberty seemed to be the logical destination.
“The whole corridor is growing strongly,” Dr. Veatch said. “Unemployment is low in the area, housing is still increasing. I believe it is attributable to the area’s large employers (the University of Iowa and Rockwell Collins as examples). It just seems like the place to be.”
The empty two-and-a-half acre parcel adjacent to Hwy. 965 and West Cherry caught his eye. It seemed ripe for development. When he learned the City of North Liberty was going to install traffic signals, he knew the land would be a prime location for development. “I knew it was going to come together, the corner was ready for something.”
Dr. Veatch purchased the parcel from St. Luke’s Hospital, as well as two small parcels from the neighboring bank with a vision of an upscale business community. In a city seemingly defined by its plethora of strip malls, Dr. Veatch knew this development would need to be different; distinctive, even.
Aspect Design of Cedar Rapids was hired for the overall design job. After several revisions, the designers came up with the exterior look Dr. Veatch desired. The next challenge was finding the right stone for the veneer. Kings Material found and delivered that stone. With all four sides of the two buildings visible, and the trend to only beautify one or two sides, Dr. Veatch directed all four sides to be given the stone treatment, for consistency and for esthetics. “I wanted the look to be unified, so I spent the extra time to make it look nice.”
The Lee Design Group (Russ Lee) tackled the landscaping, taking on the challenge of combining the buildings and their surroundings into one cohesive entity. Other contractors on the project included: Smith & Wood Construction, Inc. (general contractor); Johannes Architectural Woodworking; Dalton Construction, Inc.; Stumbo Wood Products; Advanced Tinting Solutions; Andy Fiala (carpet installation); Broulik Painting and Wall covering; Colony Heating & Air Conditioning; Corridor Drywall, LLC; Focal Point Interiors; FUEL, Inc. (marketing, branding and design); Gilbaugh Masonry, Inc.; Glass Concepts; Guardian Security Systems, Inc.; Intelec; McComas Lacina Construction; Merit Electric, Inc.; Muller Plumbing and Heating, Inc.; Stan Brown Painting; S&S–Nate Sundblad; The Water Shop; Tim Ellsworth; and The Rock Shop (granite counter tops).
Dr. Veatch also had praise for the efforts of Tred Schnoor, of Schnoor-Bonifazi Engineering, and Chris Neal, owner of Focal Point Interiors.
The team approach even extended to his wife Susie, to whom the doctor gives much credit. “She has a great eye for detail and is a great sounding board.” Susie, the marketing director for Kinze Manufacturing, also came up with the name StoneBridge Promenade.
“I wanted a classy name that was memorable.” Susie was inspired by the pond behind the complex, with its partial stone bridge.. The word promenade was a more preferable option than typical names like plaza, or centre. Veatch also wanted to avoid names with an obvious cliché. “Promenade goes with the unique look we’ve created.”
The look was influenced by retail neighborhoods in Aurora and Naperville, Ill., where Dr. Veatch spent time while in optometry school. The doctor said he fell in love with the feel of the neighborhoods with their brick and stone, as well as black giving a tuxedo look he described as very crisp.
When the ground was broken and construction started, Dr. Veatch had no tenants lined up. “It was a completely blank slate,” he said. Now, the complex is 80 percent full. “I had a hunch that if I put something together like this, it would fulfill an un-met need.” The doctor explained an upscale facility like StoneBridge would provide an opportunity for tenants to showcase their products and services in a building they’re proud of.
One tenant who jumped at the opportunity was the Bluebird Café. Lacey Willis, one of three owners, said she saw the plaza being built and knew the location (and market) was right. The Bluebird opened in April and has quickly become a popular spot for breakfast and beyond.
Dr. Veatch said building his office and the complex in general went as smoothly as possible and expressed his appreciation to the City of North Liberty for its assistance.
“I think North Liberty is excited for the look and the feel,” he said, suggesting StoneBridge may well have set the bar higher for future developments, or show that the community is ready for this type of development. Already an idea is forming for a two-story, 4,000 square foot professional building, which will someday be located behind the neighboring bank. “This property has gone so well, I’ve secured property on the south side for expansion, when the time is right.”
StoneBridge Promenade had it’s grand opening on July 14, with three hours of special offers at the individual businesses, a live remote radio broadcast, a bouncy house for the kids and even a juggler slinging flaming torches. Dr. Veatch estimated between 1,000 and 2,000 people visited.
“I’m really thrilled and pleased to be in the North Liberty community,” Veatch said. “It’s a growing and vibrant community with great leadership and a vision for the future. It’s exciting to be in the middle of it. It’s good to be in the center.”