Real Estate: Walmart building boom to hit region in 2012

As many as nine Walmart stores could be under construction in southeastern Wisconsin in 2012 as the world’s largest retailer moves to expand into established urbanized areas.

The company has plans to build two stores in the city of Milwaukee, two in Kenosha and one each in Greendale, Menomonee Falls, South Milwaukee and Wauwatosa. All of those stores could be under construction in 2012. Plans for most of them have been approved and construction on many of the stores is expected to begin soon. Another store is already under construction in Greenfield. In takes about one year to build each store.

Dickson, Tenn.-based Gatlin Development Co. Inc., a major Walmart store developer, is the developer for many of the Walmart projects that are in the works in southeastern Wisconsin.

Wal-Mart stores used to be built primarily on greenfields in small towns and in suburban areas. Now the company is focusing more of its growth efforts on established communities that are underserved for grocery and general retailers.

“(Wal-Mart is expanding) to serve our customers, to get closer to our customers and deliver our business model,” said Lisa Nelson, spokeswoman for Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc. “There are many underserved markets and neighborhoods in southeastern Wisconsin. Getting closer to our customers benefits our customers and it fits in with our growth strategy.”

The Walmart stores planned for the area fit into two general categories: standard Walmart stores with grocery and general merchandise departments and Walmart Neighborhood Market stores with just grocery and pharmacy products. The standard Walmart stores planned for the area have about 90,000 to 150,000 square feet of space and 200 to 300 employees. The neighborhood market stores are about 40,000 square feet and have 70 to 120 employees.

Most Walmart store employees are full-time. The average hourly wage for a Walmart employee in Wisconsin is $12.14, Nelson said.

In the city of Milwaukee, Gatlin plans to build a 150,000-square-foot Walmart store at the Timmerman Plaza Shopping Center, located northwest of Silver Spring Drive and Appleton Avenue on the city’s far northwest side.

On the southwest side of Milwaukee, a 40,000-square-foot Walmart neighborhood market store is planned for a vacant site at South 70th and West Main streets.

Wal-Mart is taking a similar approach in the city of Kenosha, with plans for a standard store and a neighborhood market store.

A 99,000-square-foot Walmart store is planned for a site at 30th Avenue and 80th Street, on the south side of the city. Wal-Mart already has a store serving the north side of Kenosha at Green Bay Road and 38th Street, just outside of the city limits in the Town of Somers.

Wal-Mart also plans to build a 40,000-square-foot neighborhood market store at 30th Avenue and 52nd Street in Kenosha. It is an urban infill site similar to the city of Milwaukee site where the company plans to build a neighborhood market store.

“The density at 30th and 52nd (in Kenosha) is great,” Nelson said. “There’s a lot of folks not being served by a grocery (store in the neighborhood) that would walk there. It’s a great site for a neighborhood market.”

In Greendale, Gatlin recently closed on its acquisition of the former U.S. Bowling Congress property at 5301 S. 76th St. The company will build a 90,000-square-foot store, which will be leased to Wal-Mart. Site preparation has begun for the project. The site is located across the street from Southridge Mall, which is undergoing a major renovation and will add a Macy’s department store next year.

“(The Walmart store) will be the only grocery store in the village of Greendale proper,” Nelson said.

In Menomonee Falls, plans for one Walmart store are moving forward, but plans for another store have been dropped.

Gatlin plans to redevelop a strip mall property southeast of Main Street and Pilgrim Road. A former Piggly Wiggly store and a former movie theater will be torn down for a retail development that will include a 40,000-square-foot Walmart neighborhood market store.

However, plans for a 115,000-square-foot Walmart store at West Lisbon and Pilgrim roads in Menomonee Falls were shot down by the village.

Walmart plans are often opposed when they are in conflict with a community’s comprehensive plan, Nelson said. However, many of those plans were written prior to the Great Recession and do not reflect the reality of today’s economy, she said.

“The market is shaping the reality of what is happening in this economy,” she said. “It’s not necessarily matching up with all of the visions these communities had (before the recession).”

Walmart hopes to find another site in the Menomonee Falls area to build a store, Nelson said.

In South Milwaukee, city officials recently approved plans for a 120,000-square-foot Walmart store on a 10-acre site west of Chicago Avenue and one block south of College Avenue.

In Wauwatosa, Gatlin plans to build a Walmart neighborhood market store in a former Jewel-Osco store space at 3850 N. 124th St. In an interesting twist, that Walmart store will be adjacent to a Target store.

In Greenfield, Walmart is building a new 140,000-square-foot store on a former golf driving range site next to an existing Walmart store at 4500 S. 108th St. The new store will have a grocery department, which the older existing store does not have. The existing store is on the market for sale or lease, Greenfield community development manager Chuck Erickson said.

Walmart is also trying to figure out  what to do with its 120,000-square-foot former store at W226 S1500 Highway 164 in the Town of Waukesha. That store closed last year when Wal-Mart opened its new 177,557-square-foot store opened at South West Avenue and Highway 59 in the city of Waukesha.

Walmart is waiting to see how the Town of Brookfield’s efforts to incorporate play out. If the town is incorporated it could seek to annex the former Walmart site in the Town of Waukesha.

Walmart is always looking for additional opportunities for new stores and has no set number on how many that it plans to build in southeastern Wisconsin, Nelson said. However, no additional plans appear imminent.

“We’ve had a lot of things going on,” she said.

Sign up for BizTimes Daily Alerts

Stay up-to-date on the people, companies and issues that impact business in Milwaukee and Southeast Wisconsin

No posts to display