For the southeastern Milwaukee retail industry, 2004 will be a watershed year in which many familiar store brands fade away and newer nameplates light up the neon.
Gone are many Kohl’s Foods, Sentry Foods, Rainbow Foods, Kmarts, Drug Emporium, Steinmart and Kids R Us stores.
In are Pick ‘n Save, Target, Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Kohl’s Department Stores, Petco, Linens-N-Things, Bed Bath and Beyond, Ashley Furniture, AJ Wright, Gordman’s, Michael’s Pier 1, Aldi, Trader Joe’s and Office Depot, all of which have announced expansion plans in southeastern Wisconsin.
The transformation of The Grand Avenue Mall into The Shops of Grand Avenue will be completed this year in downtown Milwaukee.
The former Capitol Court Mall in Milwaukee continues to be transformed into Midtown Center, and Bayshore Mall in Glendale will become Bayshore Town Center with $150 million in new development.
Old standbys, such as Southridge Mall in Greendale, will be upgraded, and the former Northridge Mall area on Milwaukee’s northwest side is being redeveloped into Granville Station.
"The unprecedented number of existing shopping centers being redeveloped over the past year has dominated Milwaukee’s retail market," noted NAI MLG Commercial, Brookfield, in its 2004 Wisconsin Market Overview, which has yet to be published. "Examples include the razing of the former Capitol Court Mall to make room for the 300,000-square-foot Midtown Center anchored by Wal-Mart. Mayfair Mall has benefited from the addition of over 80,000 square feet of second-level retail dominated by fashion-oriented stores such as Delias and the addition of P.F. Changs."
Meanwhile, the groundwork is being laid for the massive Pabst Farms project in Oconomowoc to attract up-scale retailers who in the past had ignored southeastern Wisconsin, and the Pabst City project on Milwaukee’s west side is recruiting trendy entertainment chains to revive the city’s night life.
In its 2004 Market Review and Forecast, The Polacheck Co., highlights the following trends in the region:
— Major retailers will have opportunities to enter underserved, densely populated markets, such as the Village Market of Hales Corners.
— New construction in suburban areas will be located near the Interstate freeways, with new retail construction projects at I-94 and Highway 83 in Delafield; County Line Road and Appleton Avenue in Germantown and Menomonee Falls; South 27th Street in Franklin and Oak Creek; I-43 and Moorland Road in New Berlin and I-43 and Highway 60 in Grafton.
— Strip center development will be driven by "fast casual" restaurants, such as the Pickermann’s soup café in Oak Creek.
— Small tenants, often franchised businesses occupying less than 10,000 square feet, will flourish.
— "Dollar stores," such as Nothing Over a Dollar, Always 99 Cents, Dollar Tree, Dollar discount, Family Dollar and Dollar General, will continue to open new locations in the market.
— Niche grocery stores, such as Sendik’s, will open new locations.
— Restaurant concepts actively pursuing sites in strip centers throughout the market include: Baja Fresh, Chipotle, Qdoba, Potbelly Sandwich Works, Panera Bread, Bear Rock Café, Atlanta Bread, Noodles & Co., Chin’s Asia Fresh, Cold Stone Creamery, Starbucks and Caribou Coffee.
— Landlords will continue to scramble to find occupants for retail space now vacant after the closings of Kmart, Drug Emporium and Kohl’s Food stores.
Another trend that may be emerging is the introduction of the Wal-Mart Super Center concept into the Milwaukee-area market. The mega-chain has proposed building its first Super Center store in the market in Franklin.
However, the Franklin proposal is meeting resistance from citizens, aldermen and other businesses, who criticize Wal-Mart for destroying downtowns and local merchants, importing mass amounts of merchandise from China, paying low wages and providing few benefits for employees and creating traffic congestion.
Max Rasansky, president and chief executive officer of The Polacheck Co., says retail landlords stuck with vacant storefronts should be more willing to give local entrepreneurs a chance to break through in the market. Although they often don’t have much collateral to put up front to secure financing, those local storeowners are ideal tenants, because they work long hours and have more of a personal, vested interest in the success of the overall strip center, Rasansky says.
"Change is good. Change is inevitable," Rasansky said. "I’m very bullish on Milwaukee."
Feb. 6, 2004 Small Business Times, Milwaukee