TH EXCLUSIVE: Former Shopko to be razed, paving way for new business

A Dubuque property that formerly housed a big-box retailer soon will be leveled to make way for future development.

The former Shopko building, located at 255 John F. Kennedy Road, will be demolished this winter, confirmed Cafaro Co. spokesman Joe Bell.

“We will probably proceed with demolition within the next month,” he said. “It is a very good location, and, from a real estate development standpoint, the land itself is more valuable at this point than the building.”

The structure largely has been vacant since Shopko closed its doors in the summer of 2019. Shopko Optical also operated within that structure and moved out later in the same year.

The Shopko building in Dubuque spans 84,000 square feet, according to online property records. Prior to Shopko’s arrival, the property was occupied by Venture Stores Inc. for approximately a decade. Zayre Department Store also operated out of the building before it closed in 1988.

Cafaro Co., which now owns the Shopko property, has explored multiple options for the site in recent years.

Bell said a local company offering professional services likely would construct a new location at the site once the building has been demolished. He emphasized that he cannot provide specifics on the company because a deal has not been finalized.

In addition to welcoming this company to the site, Cafaro Co. anticipates the construction of a second structure within the former footprint of the Shopko building.

Bell said it has not been determined what type of entity would occupy that building, but he said there are plenty of possibilities on the table, ranging from a food-oriented business to a retail or professional services company.

“We haven’t reached the point where we can say, ‘One option looks better than the other,’” Bell said. “The options are pretty much limitless within the commercial sector.”

The closure of the Dubuque Shopko two years ago was part of a broader shutdown by the large retailer. Local locations in Lancaster, Wis., and Dyersville, Iowa, also were impacted.

A long-term plan for the site in Lancaster has not been established, according to Mayor David Varnam.

He noted that the building recently has been used for storage and has served as a vaccination site by the county. Varnam, however, framed these uses as short term and emphasized that he hopes for more permanent development at the site further down the road.

“It is a great location, very visible, located where state highways come together,” he said. “We are hopeful for future development at that site.”

A Hy-Vee Dollar Fresh Market moved into the former Shopko site in Dyersville last year.

Rick Dickinson, president and CEO of Greater Dubuque Development Corp., said he is excited to hear that plans for the Dubuque site are taking shape.

“It is one of the highest-trafficked areas in the Dubuque market,” he said. “We’re not surprised there has been interest.”

He emphasized that Dubuque is among many communities dealing with transition as consumer habits shift and many retailers are forced to reconsider business models that were long based on traditional, brick-and-mortar locations.

“Reimagining is the ethos of any successful community in the 21st century,” he said.