Residents expressed mixed opinions about the proposed Wal-Mart in Greendale at yesterday’s public hearing.
The hearing yesterday was the first part of a two-part public hearing, which will continue on June 21.
Wal-Mart representatives have stressed that this particular store that will be constructed at the U.S. Bowling Congress site will be a neighborhood store meant to service the community within a 2-mile radius. Half of the store will be mainly a grocery and pharmacy store with other general merchandise.
Some residents expressed concerns about taxes rising or lowering. President John Hermes and Village Manager Todd Michaels said taxes are likely to lower, but not drastically.
A man said he was upset about seeing the U.S. Congress Building being tore down because of its “architecture beauty.” The resident said that tearing it down and placing a “big box” store in its place would be going against the plans of the Greendale founders. He also said that bringing a grocery store to the village was not reason enough when Pick ‘n Save and Sendiks are in neighboring communities.
Resident Kathy Borowski expressed concern about taking away business from Sendiks and Pick 'n Save. On the other hand a resident that lives on Westlake Drive believes that Greendale residents should be doing their grocery shopping and paying sales tax to a Greendale store.
“Some people don’t want to drive to other communities to buy groceries and give to their tax base,” she said. “Pick 'n Save doesn’t cater to their customers anymore. I’m happy to see something close by on a commercial street. Wal-Mart is not asking to go into the village and change our village. It’s a commercial area and we need it. We’re not a sleeping town anymore. We need another grocery store for us, not for Franklin, not for Hales Corner, for Greendale. Why do we complain for something that Wal-Mart is bending backwards for us to make into a beautiful store?”
Debra Dexon agreed and said that Greendale has people of all income levels and believes that stores like Sendicks are too pricey.
“The village was started for all levels of incomes,” Dexon said. “Some people are not going to shop at Sendiks because it’s a little too expensive. We would rather see people put tax money in a Walmart in Greendale than one in Franklin or Greenfield.”
The 76th Street Corridor in Greendale currently has the old Leath furniture building, Bally’s building and Borders building vacant. About two residents at last night’s meeting said that they like the idea of Wal-Mart bringing more traffic to the 76th Street area and possibly attracting other businesses.
Long-time resident Dave Miller said, “76th street is a business street. What it needs are businesses not boarded up buildings. Wal-Mart is willing to play by our rules and I think they will be good corporate citizens. They are going to be a great addition to the community.”
Martin Luther High School will be neighbors to the new Wal-Mart and are even selling part of their land to Wal-Mart. Their chief executive officer, Todd Moritz, was at the meeting last night.
Mortiz said, “I’ve had the privilege of working with the Wal-Mart folks and they have been kind and gracious to the high school.”
Two other concerns expressed tied into the redevelopment of Southridge Mall and the senior living complex.
Michaels and Hermes both said that they have spoken with Macy’s and Southridge management and both don’t have a problem with Wal-Mart.
"I think what Walmart is doing with the type of store they are going bring is a good thing and are going to bring additional businesses to 76th street corridor," said Southridge manager Patrick Basche at a press conference last month.
Russ, who lives in New Berlin and represents his Greendale resident mother, said that providing Southridge with a $16 million TIF district factor in their thoughts about Wal-Mart.
Resident Ken Judy said he appreciates placing a Wal-Mart within walking distance, but asks that officials figure out a way to make a walking path for the residents from the senior living complex that is currently being build.
The planning commission will further review Wal-Mart’s proposal tonight at 7 p.m. The village board will hold another public hearing on June 21 and will probably be followed by a decision for the proposal.