Chicago Sprawl

Last updated on July 2nd, 2019 at 11:00 am

Spotlight On: Kenosha County

Many Kenosha County residents are buzzing with anticipation, trying to guess what Abbott Park, Ill.-based Abbott Laboratories is going to do with about 400 acres the company has purchased northwest of Interstate 94 and Highway 165/County Highway Q in Pleasant Prairie. During the last several months, business entities called PDD LLC, PDD II LLC and PPD II LLC have acquired the land from different landowners for about $30 million. PDD’s address is 625 Cleveland Ave., Columbus, Ohio, which is the same address as Abbott Laboratories’ Ross Products Division.

Abbott Labs manufactures pharmaceutical, nutritional and medical products. The Ross Products division makes nutritional products, including infant formulas.

Pleasant Prairie and Abbott Laboratories representatives have refused to comment on the land purchases.

However, the company’s massive land acquisition indicates it may be planning something big. By comparison, Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co. built its new 500,000-square-foot Franklin facility on an 84-acre site that is expected to provide enough room for 20 years of expansion with 2 million square feet of office space.

Abbott’s land acquisition is the latest example of how the growth of the Chicago area, the third-largest metro area in the nation, is affecting Kenosha County, said John Czarnecki, vice president of Brookfield-based Apex Commercial Inc.

"Illinois isn’t spilling over the border, it’s gushing over," Czarnecki said. "Their corporations are seeing the value of doing business in Wisconsin. This is the most obvious example of the blending of the Chicago area with Kenosha County. It’s just going to keep happening and happening and happening where people are coming over the border."

Since Wispark LLC began developing it in 1987, the 2,400-acre LakeView Corporate Park in Pleasant Prairie has attracted businesses that occupy 8.6 million square feet of commercial space on 1,600 acres. Only about 550 acres are still available for development in LakeView. About 9,200 people work there each day. Many of the firms that have moved into LakeView came from Illinois. LakeView’s primary target market is Lake County and northern Cook County.

Lower energy costs, lower land costs and lower real estate taxes, compared those in the Chicago area, have helped attract Illinois businesses to Kenosha County. Workers in Kenosha County are also typically paid less than workers in the Chicago area. In addition, there is a lack of land available for commercial development in the northern portion of the metro Chicago area.

About five years ago, Wisconsin’s energy costs were much lower than Illinois’, but that difference has shrunk considerably in recent years, according to Peter Ginn, Milwaukee regional manager for First Industrial Realty Trust, a Chicago-based real estate investment trust (REIT).

Abbott Labs is the largest employer of Kenosha County residents, according to county officials.

The company still has a large amount of vacant land at its Abbott Park headquarters, Ginn said, which is so large it has its own zip code.

Abbott may be acquiring the land in Wisconsin to use it as leverage when bargaining with officials in other states, Ginn said.

However, Czarnecki said he doubts the company would acquire such a large portion of land without plans to build on it.

"They’re probably putting together a 20-year or 30-year expansion plan," he said. "Maybe this is going to be Abbott Park II."

If Abbott Labs builds a large facility with a high number of employees in Pleasant Prairie, it would probably lead to more residential and retail development, real estate brokers say.

"More people means more homes, and more homes means more retail," Czarnecki said.

A major Abbott Labs development would probably not result in new office development nearby, said Kevin Armstrong, senior vice president of the office group for The Polacheck Co. Some thought the new 506,000-square-foot GE Healthcare facility, which is being built in Wauwatosa, would attract other high-tech firms that would want to be nearby, he said.

"We certainly haven’t seen that," Armstrong said.

However, Andrew Jensen Jr., principal for Grubb & Ellis|Boerke Co., said a major Abbott Labs development should attract retail and office development to the Kenosha area.

"It’s not going to be too dissimilar with what happened with Northwestern Mutual on South 27th Street," he said.

Since Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co. built its 500,000-square-foot office building on South 27th Street in Franklin, the nearby land values increased, some retail development has occurred along the street and some office developments have been proposed, Jensen said.

Jockey International Inc. owns 70 acres south of the Abbott Park land and has been planning for a few years to build a new facility there to replace its Kenosha headquarters. However, the company has not established a timeline to begin construction, said Mark Jager, senior vice president and general counsel for Jockey.

A large Abbott facility could attract some ancillary vendors to the Kenosha area, Czarnecki said. By comparison, Kohl’s Corp.’s headquarters in Menomonee Falls attracted some vendors, like Levi Strauss & Co., to open small offices nearby, he said.

Kenosha County is one of the fastest-growing areas in the state. A major development could add more fuel to the residential and retail growth already occurring in the area.

Several retail projects are already in the works in Kenosha County.

Orlando, Fla.-based Quality Centers plans to build a 700,000-square-foot shopping center northwest of I-94 and Highway 50 in Kenosha. Prime Outlets, located south of Highway 165 and east of I-94 in Pleasant Prairie, is adding about 150,000 square feet to the 250,000-square-foot retail center. Redevelopment is also planned for the Original Outlet Mall located south of Highway 50 and west of I-94.

"The retail growth (in Kenosha County) is incredible," Czarnecki said. "They can’t build that stuff fast enough."

Key Kenosha County Projects

  • Abbott Park, Ill.-based Abbott Laboratories Inc. has purchased about 400 acres of farmland northwest of I-94 and Highway 165/County Highway Q in Pleasant Prairie. So far, the company has declined to comment on the land purchase.
  • Orlando, Fla.-based Quality Centers plans to build a 700,000-square-foot shopping center northwest of I-94 and Highway 50 in Kenosha. The first stores are planned to open in mid-2007.
  • Prime Outlets, located south of Highway 165 and east of I-94 in Pleasant Prairie, is adding about 150,000 square feet to the 250,000-square-foot retail center. The $25 million project is scheduled to be complete in July.
  • Redevelopment is planned for the Original Outlet Mall located south of Highway 50 and west of I-94.
  • Strawberry Creek development, located north of Highway 50 and west of I-94, which includes 326 single family homes, 336 town homes and condominiums and 264 luxury apartments built around a new 18-hole golf course.
  • Kenosha preservationists hope to restore the 2,400-seat Kenosha Theatre, 5919 6th Ave. in downtown Kenosha, which was built in 1927 and closed in 1963.
  • LakeView Corporate Park, a joint venture of Wispark LLC and Centerpoint Properties Trust, located in Pleasant Prairie continues to attract more industrial tenants. About 1,600 acres of the 2,400 acre corporate park have been developed. LakeView has about 8.6 million square feet of commercial space and about 9,200 people work in the corporate park every day. It is expected to take about 10 more years to complete the development of LakeView. Once fully developed the corporate park will have about 15.5 million square feet of commercial space and 15,000 to 16,000 people working there.
  • KMA Developments LLC plans to build a nine-story, mixed-use building at 714 52nd St. in downtown Kenosha. The building would have 15,000 square feet of retail space and 87 condominiums.
  • Developer Robert Watring is building a nine-story building at the southwest corner of Fourth Avenue and 57th Street in downtown Kenosha, with 34 condos and 4,500 square feet of retail space.
  • Wal-Mart plans to build supercenter stores at 80th Street and 30th Avenue in Kenosha and at Highways 31 and 142 in the Town of Somers. If Wal-Mart gets both stores built it plans to close the current Wal-Mart discount store in Kenosha at 4404 52nd St.
  • The City of Kenosha plans to build a 59,000-square-foot Civil War museum on 54th Street between First and Second avenues, just north of the Kenosha Public Museum, in downtown Kenosha.
  • Proposed $808 million casino and entertainment complex at Dairyland Greyhound Park in Kenosha. In addition to the dog track the complex would have 3,100 slot machines, 75 table games, restaurants and could include a 400-room hotel and a 5,000-seat theater. It would be developed by the Menominee Tribe and Kenosha developer Dennis Troha. The project still must be approved by federal and state officials.
  • Redevelopment of the eight-story former Kenosha National Bank building in downtown Kenosha by Clovis Point.

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