Elmwood Plaza in Racine to be sold at auction

Sew n Save is one of the few remaining tenants at Elmwood Plaza in Racine.

Last updated on May 15th, 2019 at 05:04 pm

Elmwood Plaza, once Racine’s premier outdoor shopping center that included Goldblatt’s and J.C. Penney Co. department stores when it opened 60 years ago, is now nearly vacant and will be sold in an online auction on auction.com.

The starting bid for the 281,582-square-foot plaza has not yet been set for the two-day auction that starts on March 7.

Sew n Save is one of the few remaining tenants at Elmwood Plaza in Racine.
Sew ‘n Save is one of the few remaining tenants at Elmwood Plaza in Racine.

The Elmwood Plaza sale is one of two online auctions for southeastern Wisconsin strip malls in March. A 28,830-square-foot strip mall at 4848 S. 76th St. in Greenfield will also be auctioned in an online sale beginning March 7, with a starting bid of $700,000.

Elmwood Plaza is 28 percent occupied. Its anchor tenant is Family Dollar, which recently signed a five-year lease extension. New China Buffet, Bethesda Lutheran Communities thrift store and Sew ‘n Save of Racine are also tenants.

Elmwood Plaza, 3701 Durand Avenue, opened Oct. 10, 1956, with 28 stores and parking for 2,000 cars. By the time Regency Mall opened in 1981, about one mile west of Elmwood Plaza, the plaza was beginning to struggle.

Goldblatt’s had suffered a fire two years earlier and decided to close. By 1984, about 245,000-square-feet of Elmwood Plaza was vacant.

Over the years, new retail, restaurants and even a bowling alley moved in and the plaza became viable again, but it was never back to its original heyday. There have been few mainstays.

Gary’s Hobby Center opened in 1985 and remained in business until 2011, when its owner died and Sew ‘n Save has been in business since 1984.

Jim Deibler, owner of Sew ‘n Save, said when he bought the store most of his business was impulse traffic, but over years, it has evolved to destination retail.

Deibler, who leases 6,000-square-feet, is currently on a month-to-month lease and is considering his options.

He has stayed at the plaza for 32 years because of the parking lot and convenience for his customers, many who come from Milwaukee and Illinois.

“We’ve been here so long it’s hard to change and go somewhere, people know where we are,” Deibler said, adding that if the plaza does sell, he hopes it would bring some positive changes to the property.

“The place could use some sprucing up, to make it more attractive to tenants and bring in more impulse traffic. There is not a whole lot left out here – if we are going to stay, I would like it to be as nice as possible.”

Highland Park Terrace Corp. and Elmwood Racine LLC purchased Elmwood Plaza in June 2005 for $8.2 million, according to the city of Racine. It is now valued at $3.8 million, according to the city’s assessor’s office.


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