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Redeveloping Kmart site depends on Meijer vote

Aug. 20, 2013

The proposed Meijer plan and the renovation and repurposing of the nearby former Kmart site are separate projects.

But the quality of one now depends on the other.

Jon Thoresen of Commercial Properties Associates, a broker for the old Kmart site, said at last week's Plan Commission meeting that if the Meijer plan doesn't get approved, filling the 115,000-square-foot facility at 120 E. Sunset Drive could take a hit.

The Kmart site, on 11.7 acres, has been vacant for the last couple of years and its building has remained empty since. And while four new tenants would be a substantial boost for the site (ranging from 11,000-square-feet to 31,000-square-feet), they won't move in unless it has a supporting anchor nearby, Thoresen said.

"Right now two of the tenants have put their interest on hold until the formal approval of Meijer is completed," Thoresen said.

Meijer project TBD

Whether this anchor store comes into Waukesha is still to be determined.

The proposed Meijer, a 192,000-square-foot supercenter located on the southeast corner of Tenny Avenue and East Sunset Drive, temporarily stalled two weeks ago when the Common Council didn't give the project enough votes in approving a land-use plan amendment that would change the 31-acre parcel from residential to commercial. The plan has also received plenty of pushback from neighbors near that site.

But after Alderman Andy Reiland made a request to have the land-use plan reconsidered, the Common Council took another vote on Tuesday. For results of that vote, see Waukeshanow.com.

Although a couple tenants have not announced its commitment for the old Kmart site, the Waukesha Plan Commission still approved preliminary plans for building and site modifications for the location.

Cluster of retailers

When asked by Mayor Jeff Scrima how important it is for Meijer to be approved for the redevelopment at the old Kmart site, Thoresen replied "very important."

"The mass of retail creates more traffic," Thoresen added. "And consumers most of the time want to be with an anchor, department stores, grocery stores.

"Right now, we don't have huge retail traffic generators, (more for) specific users, but having a Meijer, which is a huge traffic generator, substantially improves the quality of the tenant."

Slowing down progress

Thoresen said if Meijer isn't approved, the former Kmart site would still probably get developed but that it would halt the progress.

"It would be pushed off until another developer comes in," said Thoresen, who added a risk is that it also stays vacant. "But if Meijer comes in we could formally announced two more users."

Scrima, as a result, said Thoresen and those involved with redeveloping the Kmart site should contact Meijer officials and members of the Common Council with their concerns.

One tenant planned

One future tenant that is scheduled to move into the facility is Xperience Fitness. A letter of intent was previously signed in April for the fitness center to move from its location on the west side of Sunset Drive.

The developer, Endeavor Corp., is investing $13 million in the site and it includes a $2.6 million pay-as-you-go tax incremental financing incentive, meaning Endeavor Corp. would pay for $2.6 million in TIF-eligible costs up front and as the tax increment from the project is realized, the city would reimburse Endeavor Corp. for this upfront cost.

Community Development Specialist Jeff Fortin said last week a 10,000-square-foot addition on the east side of the building is also in future plans, as are two outlots at the site closer to Sunset Drive.

Xperience was said to move in by late fall but after the meeting City Planner Jennifer Andrews said that with a complete renovation of the interior and with the site not yet given final approval, a move-in date isn't clear.

The updates for the site, Fortin said last week, also include 35 new landscape islands. He said besides helping with the appearance of the site, the islands will help traffic flow. There would be about 640 parking stalls at this site, and the Planning Department is also requesting for more landscape revisions as well as the inclusion of bike racks.

"I would ask the applicant and the staff to look aggressively to see if there is a way of staying within the financial constraints and to do as much as possible to upgrade to bring great quality to this large building and footprint," said Alderwoman Joan Francoeur, who added, along with other commissioners, that they want the building to separate itself in the way it looks from other sites on Sunset.

Other approvals

In other items from the meeting, the Plan Commission unanimously approved site modifications at Butler Middle School that reroutes buses around the school on Hine Avenue creating a new driveway out of the parking lot because the school district wanted a way to ease congestion and activity on Michigan Avenue.

The Plan Commission also approved by a 5-2 vote a conditional use permit and site modifications at the First Student Administration Building, 1505 Arcadian Ave., for a bus maintenance and administration operation.

One commissioner had reservations on the permit with Arcadian Avenue being under construction and additional congestion. But another said he plans on being a "watchdog" of this site.

A status report will be issued in October and the Commission has the option to revoke the permit if it chooses.

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