Developer says nearby Wal-Mart won’t hurt New Berlin City Center

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Developer says nearby Wal-Mart won’t hurt New Berlin City Center

By Steve Jagler, SBT Executive Editor

The opening a new Wal-Mart store in a next-door shopping center will have a positive impact on the New Berlin City Center project, according to the retail developer of the new site.
Steven Stewart, managing member of Investors Equity LLC, said a new Wal-Mart in Moorland Square – a stone’s throw away – will not be competition for the new City Center, but instead will increase the traffic flow to the smaller retailers and restaurants that will be built at the site.
Real estate sources said Wal-Mart would disclose its plans to open the store when it meets with the New Berlin Planning Commission this month.
The Wal-Mart store will be opened in the space vacated by Kmart earlier this year.
"It won’t be competition at all. I think it’s an advantage for the City Center. It will bring more people down here. The City Center won’t be ‘big-box,’" Stewart said.
Nick Purtell, a principal at RFP Commercial, Milwaukee, which is marketing the office space and banking space at the City Center, agrees.
"Wal-Mart’s going to drive a lot of people there. Somebody’s going to go into Wal-Mart to buy bulk whatever, but the New Berlin City Center is not going to have the type of retail to compete against Wal-Mart," Purtell said.
The retail shops at the City Center will range in size from 1,600 to 6,000 square feet, Stewart said.
Stewart expects to have commitments this month from a variety of national, regional and local retailers to open stores and restaurants at the City Center, which will be constructed east of the intersection of National Avenue and Coffee Road.
The retailers negotiating for sites in the City Center include an upscale bistro restaurant, a restaurant/grill, an ice cream shop, a sandwich shop, a pizza chain, a health spa and a financial services company, Stewart said.
Stewart said he has commitments from three retailers, but confidentiality agreements prohibit him from identifying the companies.
"I would expect to have several contracts finalized by Oct. 1, and then we can break ground," Stewart said.
The retail sites are being marketed by Mid-America Real Estate Corp., Milwaukee.
Like many outlying suburbs in southeastern Wisconsin, New Berlin does not have a downtown. So, the city is going to create one.
Stewart said the City Center would become the "epicenter" of New Berlin.
"New Berlin is pretty much spread out. It’s never really had a city center, a destination point for its people," Stewart said. "There’s no point for people to congregate. The schools are here, the churches are here, city hall is up the road …."
The City Center site is actually owned by two different parties: Stewart’s NB Commercial LLC owns the 26 acres in the "top half" of the site, while a partnership named Decade Partners owns the "bottom half."
In addition to the 35,000 square feet of retail space and 45,000 square feet of commercial office space, the City Center would create a sprawling complex worth as much as $45 million in development, including:
— The $9 million, 48,000-square-foot New Berlin Public Library, which would include a business resource center, a larger meeting room, a computer lab and other amenities;
— Senior citizen housing;
— Condominiums;
— And a farmer’s market.
The site will be linked by an eastward expansion of Coffee Road and will feature retention ponds, lighted walkways, bicycle paths and other public features designed to add value to the project, Stewart said.
"That library will bring people here. I’m really, really glad the library ended up going in there," Stewart said. "There’s going to be a good mixture of residential and commercial."
RFP is in ongoing discussions with several bank companies interested in opening branches in the City Center, Purtell said.
"We’ve got several banks that seem very interested, but a deal’s not done until somebody signs the lease," Purtell said.
The City Center retail development is being designed by The Albion Group, Milwaukee, and will be constructed by Redmond Construction Co., Waukesha.
For Stewart, who has been finagling the system since 1999 to proceed with the City Center development, the project will be worth the wait. The City Center was delayed by two years after the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources believed the site could be natural habitat for the Butler’s garter snake, a species believed to be endangered in the state.
An agreement has been reached to leave about six acres of the site undeveloped to accommodate the mystery creature, which Stewart has never seen.
"The Butler’s garter snake, among other things, cost us in the millions of dollars," Stewart said. "We have to keep fences up to protect it, and we have to build in culverts to let it move around. It’s a joke. But it’s a real expensive and terrible joke. But it’s time to move on now."

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