West Allis plan commission rejects Kmart store redevelopment plan

Property owner says lease to Hobby Lobby in jeopardy

Kmart shutterstock 2016
Kmart, photo by Shutterstock

The owners of West Allis Towne Centre say the lease for the Hobby Lobby store slated to backfill a portion of the vacant Kmart space could be lost if the city does not get on board with architectural plans for the space.

This week, the West Allis plan commission followed city staff recommendations to deny Farmington Hills, Michigan-based Ramco-Gershenson Properties Trust’s proposal to divide the former Kmart store at 6900 W. Greenfield Ave., into three tenant spaces.

The 86,479-square-foot Kmart store closed in September. The new tenants would include a 49,970-square-foot Hobby Lobby and two un-named tenants that will occupy a 20,000-square-foot space and an 8,016-square-foot space.

The Hobby Lobby would need loading docks facing 70th Street, which the city does not want.

“They proposed that 30 years ago and we said no then,” said John Stibal, director of development for the city of West Allis.

But Edward Eickhoff, senior vice president of development with Ramco, said without the loading docks, which is part of the lease agreement with Hobby Lobby, the company could lose the store.

“The retail environment today is very challenging,” Eickhoff said. “Stores are still expanding, but there are fewer with the internet effect. We try very hard not to lose any deals. The Kmart box was 89,000 square feet, we are not going to find a store to occupy that space so it has to be subdivided.”

With larger stores such as Sports Authority, Circuit City, HH Gregg and Borders all out of business and Toys “R” Us closing stores, Eickhoff said retailers needing nearly 50,000 square feet are few and far between.

“We built that shopping center in 1987, with the cooperation of the city,” he said. “We are not building from the ground up, we are trying to back fill space and I still have another 36,000 square feet to fill.”

Ramco intends to appeal the decision to the full Common Council.

“Ramco worked expeditiously to develop a feasible architectural design plan that improved all building façades and enhanced landscaping for the Kmart site,” Eickhoff said. “Unfortunately, that plan was rejected by city staff, and now plan commission, both objecting to keeping loading docks along 70th Street–even though Kmart’s loading dock was visible from 70th since the store was built in 1988.”

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