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Southridge land division could spur development

Residents concerned about mall's future

Dec. 30, 2009

Greendale — More than a dozen residents turned out for a meeting Tuesday night about a seemingly simple land division proposal and took the opportunity to voice their concerns over the future of Southridge Mall.

The Village Board unanimously approved a proposal that splits two parcels into four in the hopes it will become easier to attract development to the southern portion of the Southridge property.

Several of the residents who spoke to the board said the mall is an asset to the community and needs to stay that way. Trustees should think long term when planning the future of Southridge, they said.

"We all agree there's a lot of potential not being realized," resident Mike Rauterberg said. "I just urge the board to not make decisions that might look good in the short term, but in the long term hurt the strategic opportunities of Southridge."

Plans still up in the air

The type of future development, if any occurs at all, is still unknown for that portion of the Southridge property.

In this economy, it would be foolish not to listen to any type of proposal, Village Manager Todd Michaels said.

Housing, retail or office developments are all possibilities.

One proposal that has been discussed openly is a senior living facility, but no plans have come forward.

Village President John Hermes said he was confident mall owners Simon Property Group would be able to revitalize Southridge when the recession eases and the retail sector returns.

"They want to make the investment; they have assured that they will," he said. "There's not much that a community can do to encourage that, other than to develop and continue a relationship with this mall owner … be productive along with them and to offer partnerships along the way."

Hermes added the recession proves that Southridge would benefit from diversifying the area so it's used for more than retail.

Special taxing district eyed

As part of the land division, which Michaels initiated and Simon Property Group formally proposed, the southeast portion of the parking lot is separated from the rest of the mall property and divided into two parcels of land.

The site of the former Younkers store also is split in two. Those four parcels would be used for development.

A main driving force behind the land division is that makes it easier to create a tax-incremental financing district as a tool to lure developers.

A TIF district allows municipalities to borrow money to fund infrastructure improvements and use the new tax increment generated to pay off the loan.

Not much risk to village

The value of the parking lot is very little - the central portion of the mall is assessed at $120 million and the parking lots are a fraction of that, Michaels said.

Working with a low base value makes creating a TIF a low risk, Michaels said. He added the board has not begun discussions on tax-incremental financing.

The plan also preserves the opportunity for development while not changing existing rules, he said.

Any business wanting to build on the space would still have to get village approval first, for example.

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