City funds proposed for Bon-Ton HQ, Boston Store

Would keep 750 jobs in downtown Milwaukee through 2028

Bon-Ton
Bon-Ton will liquidate.

City of Milwaukee officials have come up with a proposal intended to keep the Boston Store at the Shops of Grand Avenue and the Bon-Ton Stores Inc. corporate offices in downtown Milwaukee through 2028.

Bon-Ton
The Boston Store and Bon-Ton Stores Inc. headquarters building in downtown Milwaukee.

The agreement, which includes $1.9 million in city funds, also keeps 750 jobs in downtown Milwaukee, according to a document released by the city today.

In 2014 the city and Bon-Ton reached an agreement in which the city would provide $300,000 a year for four years to keep the store and corporate headquarters downtown. The new deal would commit the company to downtown for another 10 years.

The news is the latest in the redevelopment plans of the mall. Last week, Bublr Bikes announced it would move its headquarters from Schlitz Park to Grand Avenue. The downtown mall’s owners,The Aggero Group and Minneapolis developer Hempel Cos., recently purchased the neighboring Matthews Building, which is being incorporated into the redevelopment plans.

The $1.9 million will be contributed towards a $4 million plan to refurbish the Bon-Ton office space at 331 W. Wisconsin Ave., according to the document. The lease agreement also includes three, five-year extensions.

“I couldn’t be happier we are keeping these corporate jobs in Milwaukee and the Boston Store itself,” said Rocky Marcoux, commissioner of the Department of City Development. “There was a feeling that if there was no store downtown, it wouldn’t be too long before the corporate headquarters would go. If you close a flagship store, a lot of other cities would be throwing things at the company to move its corporate headquarters there.”

Wispark, the development arm of Milwaukee-based WEC Energy Group, owns the nine-story Bon-Ton building. The Boston Store occupies about 130,000 square feet on the first two floors. Bon-Ton’s corporate offices are on floors three through five, consisting of 170,358 square feet. There are 74 one-and two-bedroom apartments are on the sixth through ninth floors.

In June, Bostco LLC, a Wispark affiliate, listed the building for sale. The property remains on the market.

The assistance for Bon-Ton and Boston Store is part of a $7.8 million tax incremental financing (TIF) proposal that also includes a financing plan for the Grand Theater project. In December plans were announced to transform the long-vacant Warner Grand Theatre into a performance hall for the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. The city is proposing a $750,000 façade grant to assist with the extraordinary cost of restoring the exterior façade and marquee.

A $5.1 million public infrastructure investment also included in the TIF funding proposal, with the bulk of the funding paying for 2nd Street reconstruction from Wisconsin Avenue to Plankinton Avenue; Wells Street reconstruction from Broadway to 6th Street and Plankinton Avenue reconstruction from St. Paul Avenue to the Menomonee River.

The entire TIF package requires common council approval.

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