Four major retail stores coming to Waukesha

Published on: 5/7/2013

A location that has been hampered by a lack of redevelopment over the last number of years could soon see its fortunes change and put that area back on the map.

That's because plans are under way to put major commercial development at East Sunset Drive, something that hasn't happened in 18 years, in addition to no new residential property being developed in the past 11 years.

Besides the redevelopment at the former Kmart site that will include an Xperience Fitness and other retail shops, it was recently announced that Meijer Inc. will also be part of the development at the southeast corner of Sunset Drive and Tenny Avenue.

Mayor Jeff Scrima said Meijer would construct its food, clothing and home goods merchandising center on the 31-acre parcel.

The Plan Commission was scheduled to review the Meijer development at its meeting Wednesday. It would then have to get approval by the Common Council and the Joint Review Board. That meeting was held after press time.

Scrima said a preliminary timeline is for construction to start during the beginning of 2014 with the 192,940-square-foot store scheduled to open in the summer of 2015.

Plans also include construction of a 2,509-square-foot gas station at the site, which City of Waukesha Planner Jennifer Andrews said was annexed from the Town of Waukesha in late 2012.

In addition to that land, Robert and Carol Smart, who own the property that was annexed, want the remaining 30 acres of that parcel developed, Andrews said.

The Meijer store would be part of the tax incremental financing district (TIF). But unlike the development at the old Kmart site, Meijer would not receive TIF funds.

This comes after plans were recently announced to redevelop the former vacant Kmart store on east Sunset Drive. Xperience Fitness will fill 40,000 of the 120,000-square-foot building.

The developer, Endeavor Corp., is investing $13 million in the site. There would also be two other sites of development on Sunset Drive as part of Phase II of the project, Andrews said.

It includes a $2.6 million pay-as-you-go TIF incentive, Community Development Director Steve Crandell said.

This means 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.

"This scenario puts the development risk on the Endeavor Corp.," a city report said. "If the project does not result in the values anticipated then they will not be reimbursed the total $2.6 million anticipated. As other projects are proposed in the district the city will evaluate the best course of action whether that be a pay-as-you-go scenario or traditional bonding scenario."

Improving flood problems

The project moved forward last week after the Plan Commission approved the TIF district. The developers will do a complete overhaul of that site, including tearing up the parking lot.

While that is taking place, which could occur as early as this summer, the city will look to build an underground flood mitigation system. Andrews said the city recently conducted a stormwater study and that area was identified as a concern for flooding.

Andrews said the city anticipates using TIF increment to pay for these improvements. She said when the bonds related to this project are satisfied the city commits to removing certain properties from the TIF boundaries. It's estimated the bonds will be repaid in 2019.

"An underground storm collection would be built to collect stormwater from the entire region to resolve flooding in the future," Andrews said. "It's good timing since they're tearing up the site as part of the redevelopment.

"So essentially we're able to complete a large public infrastructure project not from the general tax fund but paid through the TIF district."

Revitalizing Sunset

Scrima then revealed the plans for Meijer, a regional American retailer with about half of the company's 200 stores located in Michigan and additional locations in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky and most recently Wisconsin with stores planned in Kenosha, Wauwatosa, Grafton, Oak Creek and Sussex.

He said bringing in this retail has been in the works for a couple years as he and local property owner Dave Smart invited and encouraged Meijer to come to Waukesha in 2011.

"The vitality of the City of Waukesha has been a driving force behind Meijer's decision to locate a store here," Smart said. "Meijer's takes nothing for granted and looks forward to working with the city to obtain the necessary entitlements for construction and operation of proposed facilities."

Scrima is excited for the new development in this area.

"This has been and will continue to be a team effort," Scrima said. "We look forward to the quality of products, economic revitalization of the east Sunset Drive corridor, and the career opportunities that Meijer's will provide to our community."

More grocery stores

This revitalization will add to the new developments coming to the community in the next couple of months.

One is the Woodman's Food Market this summer, about four miles north of the Sunset development at 1600 E. Main St. A grand opening of the 240,000 square-foot Woodman's facility is scheduled for July 1.

And about two miles south on Highway 164, a Walmart Neighborhood Market in the Town of Waukesha is scheduled to open later this year.

The old Walmart building was torn down last month and a groundbreaking ceremony for the new 42,000-square-foot market on a 14.9-acre property took place last week.

The facility will include a supermarket with a deli, bakery and liquor departments, a full-service pharmacy and pharmacy drive-through.

While there are many retail grocery stores coming to the City of Waukesha within a short distance of one another, Andrews said once a property is rezoned appropriately, the Planning Department doesn't get to say yes or no to the retail interested in coming to the city.

"We go in mindful of the types of uses that can go in there when anything is rezoned," Andrews said. "And we are mindful to choose what properties can be commercial. When we rezone property it's done in a thoughtful, cautious and economically-viable fashion."

Andrews is confident the new development will help the economy in Waukesha.

"Waukesha has been fortunate to continue development both commercial and industrial," said Andrews, while referencing the recent Gaco Western and the Weldall expansions. "That makes Waukesha vibrant and when the economy is strong developers are desiring to work here.

"In turn, it creates a tax base and employment."

Fox Run next on list

But she knows that while these areas are expected to grow and see an economic surge in the coming years, one area in the city Andrews said facing difficult times is the Fox Run Shopping Center on the southwest side of the city.

She said once the Sunset Drive projects are finalized, the city will turn its attention to that area.

"We're constantly revaluating some of our older commercial districts and I know everyone is aware there is a great amount of vacancies in the Fox Run area," Andrews said. "That's a concern of ours for the future just like the Kmart was a concern and a focus."