Panda Express restaurant also planned nearby

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Development along Sunset Drive won't be stopping anytime soon, primarily satiating the appetites of hungry shoppers.

Three new eateries – all expected to be up and running by next spring – have been announced as tenants in the burgeoning Sunset Crossings development, the site of the former Waukesha Kmart, and the city's plan commission recently approved preliminary plans for another new restaurant virtually across the street.

Einstein Bros. Bagels, Caribou Coffee and Firehouse Subs will be moving into the island outlot building at 120 E. Sunset Drive, according to Jon Thoresen, president of Commercial Property Associates, the leasing agent for Sunset Crossings.

Residents could also soon see a Panda Express restaurant crop up on the northwest corner of the Meijer property, at Sunset Drive and Tenny Avenue, pending future city approvals.

News of the restaurants comes amid the ongoing redevelopment of Sunset Drive, which has become a local shopping destination. Projects that have contributed to that growth include Sunset Crossings, the Meijer supercenter and the Shoppes at Fox River retail center.

Crossings projects

According to Thoresen, Einstein and Caribou will share a space at the west end of the outlot building, and Firehouse will occupy a storefront at the east end. However, neither will open before year's end.

A 1,600-square-foot space between the restaurants is currently vacant, but Thoresen said another new tenant, which he declined to name, was lined up to fill that spot.

All three storefronts should be open by next May, he added.

Waukesha Community Development Specialist Jeff Fortin said the city had not yet received or reviewed plans or permits for any tenants of the outlot building.

The plan commission approved final site plans for that building in July and construction of the 6,400-square-foot structure has been ongoing for a few months. The proposal for a freestanding building was an idea consistent with a vision spelled out when the Kmart redevelopment project began in 2015.

Other tenants at the former Kmart site – a 115,857-square-foot building on 11.7 acres purchased in December 2014 by Lockard Development – have been very well-trafficked by residents in nearby neighborhoods, developers have said.

The former Kmart building now houses an Xperience Fitness, Dollar Tree, Rogan's Shoes and Kohl's Off/Aisle, and will apparently soon be home to another store. Thoresen said there's a signed and executed letter of intent from another unnamed tenant to take over the 35,000 square-foot space between Rogan's and Off/Aisle.

That tenant could be announced next month, he said.

Panda Express

News of continued development along Sunset Drive does not stop there.

Residents might soon see a Panda Express restaurant practically across the street from the Sunset Crossings property.

The city's plan commission unanimously approved preliminary plans for the project, proposed by Panda Restaurant Group in partnership with CFT NV Developments LLC, at its Nov. 9 meeting.

According to planning documents, the restaurant would be housed inside a roughly 2,600-square-foot building at the northwest corner of the Meijer property, west of the gas station.

That proposal comes on the heels of a notice of claim against the city filed by Panda Restaurant Group and CFT after the commission rejected an earlier proposal for a Panda Express at the former site of the Gasthaus restaurant, 2720 N. Grandview Blvd. Perceived traffic concerns were among the problems commissioners cited when they denied preliminary plans for that project.

CFT recently filed that notice of claim with the city, essentially warning local officials of its intent to sue for $3 million in lost property value the company argues it suffered when the first Panda Express proposal was rejected.

The common council disallowed the claim in October. By doing so, the city narrowed the window of time in which CFT can file the lawsuit to six months.

An appeal of the commission's decision to turn away the first project is pending.

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