Wal-Mart at what cost?

    Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:29 pm

    As Wal-Mart proposes two Supercenters along I-43 in Sheboygan, area planners are about to launch a study of development of the corridor.
    The Green Bay-based Bay-Lake Regional Planning Commission will study the corridor in Sheboygan, Manitowoc and Brown counties to inventory existing uses and make recommendations for future development activity.
    The launch of the study comes as Wal-Mart has proposed replacing an existing store in the Taylor Heights Shopping Center in Sheboygan with Supercenters – one on the southwest side of the city of Sheboygan and the other just north of the city in the Town of Sheboygan.
    Like other Supercenters, each would be more than 200,000 square feet and incorporate grocery store operations with the usual Wal-Mart merchandise, garden centers and tire and auto lube operations.
    Some centers also include restaurant and lease space for banking, hair salon and photo center businesses.
    Along with their impact on other businesses in the area, the stores bring increased traffic on area roadways and, often, other developments that seek to take advantage of the increased traffic.
    "We plan to find out what is there, what the potential is, what constraints exist to development, and what environmental constraints might exist," said Jim Van Laanen, a rural transportation planner with the Bay-Lake Regional Planning Commission.
    The commission has applied for a $50,000 Rural Development Business Opportunity grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Those monies, if received, would match $50,000 the commission is putting up for the study.
    Whether or not the federal funds are received, Phase I of the study will begin this summer, Van Laanen said. That phase will only be concerned with rural areas of the corridor, excluding the cities of Sheboygan and Green Bay. The study will involve land within approximately one mile of the expressway.
    The Phase I study, which would begin in late July, would detail existing land uses and the capacity of corridor infrastructure.
    "That information will help determine what kinds of businesses and industries the communities along the corridor can accommodate," Van Laanen said.
    Phase II, which would be based off information gathered in Phase I, would entail a marketing analysis and implementation of various findings.
    The study could also help communities determine whether infrastructure investments for development are worth it.
    Citing Wal-Mart developments as an example, Van Laanen said, "At first blush, it looks like a good deal for everybody. But when you consider the transportation issues, it may be a different story. Such developments certainly impact traffic and safety," not only on the roads on which they are located, but also on adjacent roadways. "Long range, they can create terrible safety problems," he said.
    Northern hospitality
    New developments will diversify Sheboygan’s economy
    Proposals by Wal-Mart to build two Supercenters in Sheboygan may be getting much of the attention these days, but there’s a lot more going on in the area, with significant recent developments continuing to change the face of the community.
    In addition to all that development, Sheboygan will be the center of attention for the golfing world this summer when the PGA Championship comes to Whistling Straits Aug. 9-15, notes Dee Olsen, executive director of the Sheboygan County Chamber of Commerce.
    "We will be a looking glass to the world," says Olsen, who anticipates the golf tournament will have a $75 million impact on the area.
    More than 60,000 people are expected to visit Whistling Straits daily, where the tournament will be played on the Straits Course – one of two at the site abutting Lake Michigan about 10 miles north of Sheboygan.
    "The tournament has 160 corporate sponsors; all of them will be here, and some of them for a little longer than the actual tournament," Olsen said. "We hope to have them take a close look at Sheboygan as a business opportunity. That’s happened at previous tournaments, where impressed sponsors have set up operations in host communities."
    Interstate 43 will play a big role in the tournament logistics. With limited hotel accommodations in Sheboygan, and with no major airport, many of the tournament visitors will be driving into town on I-43.
    What they will see is a community that has changed not only from 30 years ago but, also, from just 10 years ago, Olsen says.
    "There has been so much going on," she says, listing off project after project, many of them related to a growth in the hospitality industry.
    Among those is the Blue Harbor Resort and Conference Center, set to open in June along Lake Michigan near downtown Sheboygan, on the old C. Reiss Coal Co. property on the South Pier peninsula.
    Blue Harbor, which just concluded hiring about 300 employees, includes a 40,000-square-foot water park, a 29,000-square-foot conference center and a 183-unit resort.
    The $54 million resort is on 20 acres along a 1,400-foot stretch of Lake Michigan beach, giving it the unique combination of indoor water park and outdoor lake beach, Olsen notes.
    The South Pier area includes another 20 acres available for development, with some proposals offered to the city. Cleanup of the Reiss property included restoration of the beach – a continuation of the city’s redevelopment of the lakefront, which included the marina project 15 years ago and the downtown redevelopment.
    It’s all part of the transformation of the Sheboygan area, which has lost many manufacturing jobs, according to Russ Schuler, chairman of Wisconsin Business Bank on Taylor Drive just off I-43 in Sheboygan.
    The retail and hospitality industries have stepped up in importance for the local economy.
    "More and more jobs have been created in hospitality-related businesses," says Schuler, who notes a Sleep Inn opened eight months ago not far from the bank.
    The Kohler Co. has played a key role in the transformation, starting with the American Club and extending to its golf courses.
    New development includes the Deer Trace Plaza, a shopping center on the west side of I-43 in the village of Kohler. Pier 1 and Maurices recently opened new stores in that center, which is anchored by a Home Depot and a new Target store.
    The 404,000-square-foot center, which is now owned by Inland Real Estate Corp. of Oak Brook, Ill., also includes Elder Beerman, TJ Maxx, Michaels Stores, Fashion Bug, Dress Barn, Dollar Tree Stores, Hallmark, Bath & Body Works and Radioshack. US Cellular will open a store there in July.
    Also along I-43 in Sheboygan, Acuity Mutual Insurance Co. is in the midst of a $47 million expansion project that, over the next several years, could add as many as 600 jobs to the community. The insurance company’s addition will more than double the size of its corporate headquarters to more than 400,000 square feet.
    Farther south, in Ozaukee County, residents of the Town of Grafton at the Mequon border are fighting a proposal by International Autos Inc. of West Allis to develop three auto dealerships along I-43. The dealerships would be on 12.5 acres of land north of a park-and-ride lot along Pioneer Road. Residents of the area fear increased traffic and light pollution from the dealerships, but the company says it will work with the town to address those concerns.

    May 14, 2004, Small Business Times, Milwaukee, WI

    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