Development boom centers on Wauwatosa

Wauwatosa is one of the hottest development communities in southeastern Wisconsin. There are several major retail, office and residential development projects that are under construction or planned in the western Milwaukee County city.

Wauwatosa appears to be taking advantage of its ideal location in the middle of the metro Milwaukee area and its attributes as an appealing and densely developed community.

“There is a lot of (development) activity going on,” said Wauwatosa Mayor Kathy Ehley. “We are in a perfect location in the center of the greater Milwaukee region. We are a community that has a lot of the qualities and assets people are looking for: convenience to get anywhere, sidewalks, public amenities.”

One of the most anticipated additions in Wauwatosa is the 140,000-square-foot Nordstrom store that is under construction at Mayfair Mall. The store will open on Oct. 23. The upscale fashion retailer recently announced that it will hire 375 employees to staff its store at Mayfair. The Mayfair Nordstrom will also have two in-store restaurants, a full-service Mediterranean/Italian and a coffee shop.

Mayfair Mall will also add The Container Store in late September.

The other major retail development hot spot in Wauwatosa is Burleigh Street. Chicago-based HSA Commercial continues to develop The Mayfair Collection project northeast of U.S. Highway 45 and Burleigh.

The site was formerly occupied by Roundy’s and Kohl’s Food Stores distribution centers. The closure of those operations created a unique opportunity at a prime location for Wauwatosa, Ehley said.

“That opened up that site for development and opened up a lot of possibilities,” she said.

Last year the first phase of the Mayfair Collection opened. That phase included Nordstrom Rack, Sak’s Fifth Avenue OFF 5th and other stores.

Irgens plans to build a 155,000-square-foot office building in the Milwaukee County Research Park in Wauwatosa.

The second phase of the Mayfair Collection is under construction and will include a Whole Foods store, a 140-room Homewood Suites by Hilton hotel and four restaurants by Milwaukee-based The Bartolotta Restaurants: a diner, a gastropub, a sushi restaurant and a French bistro.

On the south side of Burleigh, across the street from the Mayfair Collection, Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Meijer Inc. is building a new store. It is one of several stores that Meijer, which combines large general merchandise and grocery departments, plans to open in the region. The Wauwatosa location is expected to open in August.

Just east of the Mayfair Collection site is a Kmart store at the northwest corner of Mayfair Road and Burleigh. The store closed on June 21 and, according to a commercial real estate source, will be converted into an At Home store. It will be the first location in the state for the Plano, Texas-based chain of home décor stores.

Wauwatosa is getting more than just retail development. Significant office development projects are also planned.

Milwaukee-based Irgens plans to build a 155,000-square-foot office building in the Milwaukee County Research Park in Wauwatosa, which would be anchored by Zywave Inc. occupying 63,500 square feet. City officials recently approved a deal to provide $4.5 million in tax incremental financing for the project. The TIF funds were provided to help pay for a parking structure for the building.

The Medical College of Wisconsin recently announced plans to build a 225,000-square-foot office building on the Milwaukee Regional Medical Center campus in Wauwatosa. The building will create a new workspace for the Medical College’s physician faculty and their administrative staff.

Meanwhile, construction is progressing on Froedtert and the Medical College’s eight-story Center for Advanced Care building at the Milwaukee Regional Medical Center campus. Construction projects at the campus are frequent.

“I think that campus is always going to have construction going on,” Ehley said. New and improved buildings will constantly be needed to keep up with medical advances, she said.

Just north of the Regional Medical Center campus is the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Innovation Campus. Developer Ed Walsh plans to build a 127-room Residence Inn by Marriott hotel on the Innovation Campus. Mandel Group Inc. is building six apartment buildings with a total of 188 units on the Innovation Campus grounds. As part of the project, Mandel Group is converting one of the four historic Eschweiller buildings on the site into an apartment leasing office. The firm is seeking other developers to redevelop the other three Eschweiller buildings. The Eschweiller buildings are in rough shape and will be a challenge to convert to a new use.

Mandel’s project is one of several apartment developments that have been built recently, are under construction, or are planned in Wauwatosa.

Milwaukee-based Fiduciary Real Estate Development Inc. will build up to 1,050 luxury multi-family residential units over seven to 10 years at The Mayfair Collection development.

Wangard Partners is building The Reef, a six-building, 180-unit apartment complex at 1215 N. 62nd St.

Much like the downtown Milwaukee area, Wauwatosa has attracted several apartment developments in recent years.

“The apartment market is booming,” Ehley said.

Young professionals and empty nesters who prefer to rent are attracted to the community’s dense, pedestrian friendly environment. Ehley lives between the downtown Tosa Village area and the North Avenue business corridor and says her home is within walking distance of three grocery stores and about two dozen restaurants.

“We have these little clusters of commercial activity that are really fun to walk to,” Ehley said. “That (pedestrian friendly environment is) what people are looking for these days.”

Perhaps more significant than any other specific development in Wauwatosa is the ongoing $1.7 billion reconstruction and expansion of the Zoo Interchange. The interchange is the busiest in the state, with 350,000 vehicles passing through it each day. Wauwatosa’s location at the interchange provides access to the community from all directions and has been a critical advantage that has helped it attract economic development.

“(The Zoo Interchange) is very important to Wauwatosa,” Ehley said.

A 140,000-square-foot Nordstrom store will open on Oct. 23 at Mayfair Mall in Wauwatosa.

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