Grand Avenue owners close to finalizing plans for mall

Ideas include "Public Market 2.0," utilizing alley

The Shops of Grand Avenue.

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

The new owners of the Shops of Grand Avenue are assembling a development team and hope to release a coherent vision for the struggling downtown Milwaukee mall this spring.

The team will include an architect, retail and office brokers, a management team and an engineer, said Chuck Biller, one of the mall’s owners and managing director with Aggero Group.

Shops of Grand Avenue (1)
The Shops of Grand Avenue

“We’re anxious to move forward and signal to the market that we are going to change the property into more of a mixed-use development,” Biller said. “We either need to come up with a way to get bodies in the mall – by bringing in a large office user or education, or give them a reason to be there.”

Biller purchased the mall in mid-December for $24.5 million with partners Tony Janowiec, principal of Milwaukee-based Interstate Parking Co. and Joshua Krsnak, president of Minneapolis-based Hempel Cos.

One idea the new owners are floating is creating a “Public Market 2.0,” (playing off the success of the Milwaukee Public Market in the Historic Third Ward) that will focus on craft breweries and possibly some food offerings that could be paired with beer.

Other ideas include converting a portion of the mall near Stone Creek Coffee into an indoor/outdoor area and also opening up more of the mall along Wisconsin Avenue.

The alley off of North Second Street is also a possibility for future development and activity, Biller said.

“We’re near the convention center and would love to create something where people who are visiting are told they should come and experience us,” Biller said. “Destination retail with a beer focus could be an experience that is a first of its kind.  We’re not going to succeed by recreating something people can get in the suburbs.”

The new Grand Avenue owners have already decided to relocate a tenant in the former Linens ‘n Things space so the store can be cleaned and the windows can be opened up so street traffic can see inside of the building. The owners have also reached out to NEWaukee about hosting events at the mall.

Biller said the mall will be rebranded – and will no longer be referred to as a “mall.” There will be the North Plankinton building, the West parking structure and a rebranded arcade building.

He said he wants to move quickly but judiciously on changes.

“We have some uses that we could implement right away, but they are not the right uses,” he said. “We want a long term vision.”

See more about the new ownership group’s plans for the Grand Avenue in this report from WISN-TV Channel 12, a media partner of BizTimes Milwaukee.

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