Alderman, DCD at odds over next phase of Walker’s Point development

Discount retailer could replace office space slated for Freshwater Plaza

Freshwater Plaza. Photo by Wangard Partners.

Last updated on May 15th, 2019 at 04:54 pm

The developer of the Freshwater Plaza project in Walker’s Point wants to remove the office component from the third phase to accommodate a national discount retail chain interested in locating at the site.

Project Developer Stewart Wangard said he has been approached by several retailers, including the national discount chain, interested in locating at the site.

Freshwater Plaza. Photo by Wangard Partners.

“This could provide us with a chance to create a retail hub and generate a significant number of jobs,” Wangard said.

The city’s Department of Community Development, however is not on board with removing the office component from the original development plans.

“Changing the zoning for this parcel to facilitate development of the property for use by an off-price-discount retailer dramatically alters the original development deal that was agreed to and does not represent the highest and best use for the site,” said Rocky Marcoux, commissioner of the DCD in a letter to Alderman Jose Perez, who submitted a zoning change request for the property at 200-300 E. Greenfield Ave.

Perez could not immediately be reached for comment.

In a letter dated Nov. 9, Perez said the addition of retail would create a vibrant neighborhood where people could live, eat, play and shop.

“A place where people can buy a pair of shoes, pick out an outfit and grab dinner before heading back to their homes only a few blocks away,” Perez said.

The property in question is owned by the city, which purchased the site and provided a no-fee option to Wangard to purchase the property through Sept. 29, 2019.

Under the development agreement, phase three of Freshwater Plaza was expected to include a three to six story office building with an adjacent two to three story parking structure.

According to the letter sent to Perez, Marcoux told Wangard in August and October the city did not support the unnamed discount retailer replacing the office space.

Wangard said plans for the nearby Harbor District include future office and industrial development.

“There will be significant amounts of new land available to meet more flexible office needs,” Wangard said. “The plan also states that mixed use is an important component and should be dominant.”

Freshwater Plaza is a four-phase 180,000-square-foot development that includes a Cermak Fresh Market, commercial office space and a three story apartment building.

The project received $5.3 million in city financing. Marcoux said the financing was structured in a manner that included anticipating office tenants.

“We agree with your statement that Freshwater Plaza should be a place to live, eat, play and shop,”Marcoux’s letter said. “But equally important, it should be a place to work. The office component of the original vision was important to the stakeholders to ensure a complementary use to the UWM School of Freshwater Sciences and to provide family supporting jobs.”

The zoning request will be reviewed by the Zoning, Neighborhoods & Development Committee.

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