Specialty gyms, fast casual restaurants looking for space in Milwaukee market

Retail brokers optimistic about future


Last updated on May 15th, 2019 at 04:52 pm

As the Bon-Ton stores prepare for closure on Aug. 31, representatives from Milwaukee’s real estate and retail industries are optimistic new uses will fill the existing space.


The closure of Bon-Ton’s nine Boston Stores in southeastern Wisconsin will mean 1.17 million square feet of real estate space left vacant on the market, according to CoStar data.

The largest Boston Store is at Southridge Mall, at 217,434 square feet. Mall Manager Mary Mokwa said she sees the loss as an opportunity.

Mokwa, who attended the 2018 the International Council of Shopping Centers and Commercial Association of Realtors Wisconsin retail event Wednesday at Potawatomi Hotel & Casino in Milwaukee, said when Sears closed its Southridge store the space was leased within three months. Dick’s will occupy the first level and Round 1 will move into the second floor.

During Wednesday’s event, real estate brokers also discussed several other potential retailers and restaurants eyeing southeastern Wisconsin – not just to fill vacant Boston Store space, but to open additional stores or first-to-market locations here.

Ross Koepsel, with Founders 3, said auto parts stores, medical office buildings, and gyms, both large and small are all looking to expand in the region.

Cyclebar, which has locations in Brookfield and Mequon is planning to expand as well as iLoveKickboxing, IM=X Pilates, 9Round, Barre District and Orange Theory Fitness. The specialty gyms lease between 1,500 and 4,000 square feet of space.

The Wisconsin Athletic Club is also looking for five to seven acres, according to Founders 3.

As far as restaurants, Koepsel said the “losers” will continue to be sit down chains such as Chili’s and Applebee’s while new-to-market fast casual restaurants including City Barbeque, Café Zupas, MOD Pizza and Blaze Pizza are looking to add locations in the area.

Wahlburgers, a Boston-based burger chain owned by chef Paul Wahlberg and celebrity brothers Donnie and Mark, is also planning to enter the Milwaukee and Madison markets and is looking for locations, said Andrew Prater with Mid-America Real Estate-Wisconsin. Prater compared Whalburgers to Shake Shack.

The grocery store wars will continue with Aldi and Fresh Thyme continuing their expansion in the area, Koepsel said.

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