All eyes are on new Walmart idea
Public gets a glimpse of neighborhood store concept for village site
Greendale - Last week's public sneak peek of a neighborhood Walmart proposed for the former Bowling Congress site on South 76th Street across from Southridge Mall produced supporters and skeptics.
This week, the concept advances to its initial hearing before the village's plan commission, where it will begin to undergo more official public scrutiny.
Review of the proposal for a new-concept, smaller-sized Walmart is expected to take more than one plan commission meeting and a mid-May public hearing before it eventually goes to the Village Board.
The 93,000-square-foot store - featuring retail, grocery and pharmacy - is about half the size of a typical Walmart and could be the first of its kind in the Milwaukee area, though similar proposals have also recently emerged in Milwaukee and Menomonee Falls. The company has unveiled the smaller stores nationally just this year.
Worth a listen
Village President John Hermes said Greendale is doing its due diligence.
"We have a site that is zoned for the proposal, so we are listening to Walmart just as we would with anyone," Hermes said. "This proposal does not require any funds from the village and the project would generate, conservatively, $10 million in property taxes."
Hermes noted that the site formerly generated property tax revenue of $4 million.
"It makes sense," Hermes said, "to develop the 76th Street with a mix of retail options. That is a key to a successful business district."
The informal presentation held at Greendale High School on April 7 included a series of easels with site plans, renderings and photographs. About 300 people had the opportunity to ask questions of engineering and development representatives at each station.
Early mixed reactions
Reactions varied widely among residents.
"I have lived in Greendale since 1977 and I like the idea that I can drive into my own community and shop," said Georgene Rettmann. "I'm also thinking about the seniors because now they can drive or walk a short distance to go to a store. The pharmacy is a nice surprise."
Charles Jacobson, a Greendale resident since 1962, said "it would be great to have a grocery store in Greendale again" after the departure of Kroger and Pick 'n Save. "I see seniors walking to Speedway now and I'm sure they are buying higher-priced milk and other things."
The project is unwelcome for other local residents Karen Murkowski and Darlene Caswell.
"I'm very afraid that we'll turn the area into another Highway 100 with all the traffic," Caswell said. "The only time I ever shop at a Walmart is when my sister comes in from out of state."
Murkowski sees Walmart altering the community's character.
"Greendale is a quaint little community with a homey feel," she said. "This kind of business would change that. I am worried about my property values. I support some industry that would lower the tax rate, but not something like this."
Walmart knows the feelings of some communities toward their big-box image and the company is addressing that, Lisa B. Nelson, speaking on behalf of Walmart, said at the meeting.
"Greendale has branded itself as a special place, so we want to work with the community and be something that residents can enjoy," she said.
Part of the plan is to have the building blend into the neutral colors of similar businesses around the area and be shielded partly by other storefronts aligned along 76th Street.
Local Chamber of Commerce members are waiting to see the project unfold before officially weighing in.
"I'll need more information before I can comment, but any development that brings business to the area is generally good," said Patrick Basche, general manager of Southridge Mall.
Ted Mainella, president of the Greendale Historic Society, said the impact will be less felt now than when Southridge was developed in 1970.
"The South 76th street business district is not part of the historic district of Greendale," Mainella said. "When Southridge was built, there was nothing developed along the street, so it was controversial. The Bowling Congress site is vacant, so something needs to go there.
"The current village government is sensitive in developing these projects, so I'm sure that good choices will be made once all the details are reviewed."
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