Miller Park Way is a retail magnet

The Miller Park Way corridor between National Avenue and Lincoln Avenue emerged as a retail hub after the Village of West Milwaukee attracted three big box stores prior to the Great Recession.

After the recession hit, development in the corridor ground to a halt. But now retail development is picking up throughout the region, and Miller Park Way is once again a hot spot.

“All of a sudden we’ve gotten real busy again,” said Kim Eagan, West Milwaukee village administrator.

Several projects are in the works along Miller Park Way:

  • Wal-mart plans to build a 147,000-square-foot store about a block east of Miller Park Way on the north side of Greenfield Avenue. The site is currently occupied by a mostly vacant strip mall, formerly anchored by a Sentry store, and some mostly vacant industrial buildings. Wal-mart told village officials that the project will cost $15 million to $20 million and the store will have 300 employees, Eagan said.
  • Aurora, Ill.-based Cermak Fresh Market is building a 61,000-square-foot grocery store at 1541 Miller Park Way, just south of a Target store. The store will focus on fresh fruits and vegetables. It is expected to have 100 employees.
  • AutoZone plans to build a 20,000-square-foot store at 1552 Miller Park Way. AutoZone Development Corp. purchased a 2.53 acre site for the project for $1.45 million.
  • A new, 15,000-square-foot GFS Marketplace store is expected to open in October at 2064 Miller Park Way. GFS Marketplace stores are targeted to restaurants, caters, other businesses or individuals planning special events, that need to purchase a large amount of quality food. The store is expected to have 30 employees.
  • Oak Park, Ill.-based McCollom Realty Ltd. and Milwaukee-based Evo Development Inc. plan to build a $3 million, 13,000-square-foot multi-tenant retail building at 1200 S. Miller Park Way. For years the site was occupied by Wisconsin Vending and then Aramark Vending. Aramark Vending moved out of the facility in 2005. The building was demolished that year and the site has been vacant for six years. “With all of the redevelopment Miller Park Way has experienced over the past few years, pent up demand still exists for retailers who are looking for a home,” said John Holborow, president of Evo Development. “This has been and remains one of the most active areas for retailers looking in the metro area.”
  • Earlier this year a 7,609-square-foot building was completed at 2070 Miller Park Way for Firestone Complete Auto Care. The building was sold in May for $2.66 million, or about $350 per square foot, to a New York-based real estate investment trust (REIT).
  • Between the GFS Marketplace store and the Firestone store, Milwaukee Coffee Brewing Company plans to build a 3,500-square-foot retail building for two tenants, including a Duncan Donuts store, which will occupy 2,300 square feet of space.

Those developments follow earlier developments highlighted by Target, Menards and Pick ‘n Save stores prior to the Great Recession. Those stores provided key anchors to the retail corridor, which has been developed in an area that was cleared years ago for a freeway segment that was never built and on abandoned industrial sites, including the former General Electric Co. Hotpoint Appliance property.

“We were so particular (at the beginning of the redevelopment of the corridor), other people see how nice the developments look and know that Miller Park Way is going to be a stable area,” Eagan said.

The large amount of vacant land turned out to be a big opportunity for West Milwaukee that other similar communities do not have, said Cory Sovine, vice president of Siegel-Gallagher Inc.

“A lot of older established communities don’t have that huge land base,” he said. “They don’t have the lot size that you would need to do these projects.”

Proximity to a densely populated area, high traffic volume and ease of access are the reasons that Miller Park Way has become so attract to retailers, say commercial real estate brokers.

Miller Park Way gets traffic of about 30,000 to 40,000 vehicles per day, according to Peter Glaser, first vice president of CB Richard Ellis. That compares favorably to Bluemound Road (40,000 vehicles per day) and Highway 100 (30,000 vehicles per day), he said.

“It’s really on par with those other two streets,” Glaser said. Eagan said the village’s latest traffic counts show that Miller Park Way traffic is even higher, with 50,000 vehicles per day.

About 200,000 people live within a three-mile radius of Miller Park Way, providing a sizeable population base to shop at stores in the corridor, Glaser said.

Plus, it is so easy to get to Miller Park Way off of I-94 that, “your trade area is really a lot larger because of the easy access from the freeway,” Glaser said.

The corridor attracts many shoppers that live in and near downtown Milwaukee because it is the closest big box area they can get to, Sovine said.

As retail development along the Miller Park Way corridor continues the amount of vacant land is dwindling, which could help drive up property values and eventually encourage more redevelopment of old industrial properties into retail.

“As the property values go up a lot of these (industrial) guys are going to get chased out of there as their taxes go up,” Sovine said. “How long that takes is anyone’s guess. Certainly with the economy the way it is, it’s not gong to happen anytime soon.”

“Industrial will remain an important part of that community, just not on Miller Park Way,” Glaser said.

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