Open House Gives Sneak Peek Into What Wal-Mart Would Mean to Greendale

Wal-Mart representatives and Village Board members were present at last night's open house to explain the proposal and answer questions from the public.

Residents had mixed reviews about Wal-Mart coming to Greendale at last night’s open house at .

The open house featured the proposed Wal-Mart plans on poster boards with representatives from the company and Village Board members addressing concerns from the public. A stream of at least 30 people attended the open house throughout the event. 

The proposed Wal-Mart would be at the old U.S. Bowling Congress on 76th Street.

Residents opposed to Wal-Mart coming into the village said the company has enough stores in the area, including the one on 108th Street in Greenfield and two on 27th Street in Franklin and Milwaukee.

Wal-Mart representatives said the store would fulfill a need in Greendale.

“Greendale doesn’t have a grocery store,” said Lisa Nelson, Senior Manager of Public Affairs at Wal-Mart. “And it’s mainly going to be a grocery store for the community.”

Another concern brought to the table was the aesthetics of Wal-Mart. Residents said the big box store took away the village's small town feel. 

Also mentioned was the redevelopment of Southridge Mall. Simon Property Group, mall owner, has committed to a multi-million dollar redevelopment of the mall and along with that there has been talk of a major anchor store coming into the mall. Residents voiced their concerns that a Wal-Mart could dissuade higher-end stores from setting up in Southridge.

“I think it’s going to bring a whole different clientele that we may not want in Greendale,” said Jean Garrity, an original homeowner. “The village has worked hard to have an upscale image with the shops downtown.  There are other things to bring into the village. We don’t need a Wal-Mart every two miles.  I wonder if other retail clients will be less likely to go to Southridge with a Wal-Mart across the street.”

The proposed Wal-Mart would be located behind two lots that will eventually be sold off to local retailers.  Some said that they like the new Wal-Mart models that try to blend in with a community. 

“From the standpoint of aesthetics, I’m a gardener, and I think Wal-Mart is doing a good job of making it a commercial area friendly,” Susan Archer said.  “This Wal-Mart is going to be an upscale Wal-Mart. It’s going to be a newer style.”

Village President John Hermes said that with the redevelopment Southridge the mall will be increasing in value.

“We’re moving Southridge up the ladder,” Hemes said. “We are increasing the value of Southridge. That will include more upscale things that come into the Southridge market. Does Wal-Mart detract from that? No, it compliments it in traffic flow.”

Some residents are looking forward to the tax base that a big corporate player like Wal-Mart will bring to the village.

“I’m homeowner in Greendale and I am very concerned with the tax base from Greendale and also very concerned about the people in Greendale,” Archer said. “People in Greendale have been hit hard by the taxes in Greendale. I think it’s very important for us to look at our tax base as a city. From that standpoint I think Wal-Mart will add a lot to the tax base.”

The current property where Wal-Mart will be is valued at $4 million, according to Hermes. Once development is done Hermes said the estimated value would go up to anywhere from $10 million to $15 million.

Others said that they would like to see a Woodman’s, Trader Joes or some other kind of grocery store.

But Wal-Mart is the only offer they have right now, Hermes said. He also said that Greendale could potentially face a lawsuit from Wal-Mart because the village cannot discriminate against them. The area is zoned for businesses like Wal-Mart.

“The village cannot discriminate in the businesses that occupy pieces of property that are already zoned in for that type of business,” Hermes said. “For us to say no Wal-Mart in Greendale in that particular property they would have us in court the next day. They are our only proposal and we have to move forward with their proposal.”

The village can have input on how the Wal-Mart will look within legal zoning measures. Wal-Mart officials also said they try to work with the community when constructing a Wal-Mart. A few week ago residents of Caledonia showed displeasure of a new Wal-Mart in their community.

Nelson said Wal-Mart is going back to the drawing board in Caledonia.

“We have a business model, but there is certainly things we can do in development to make it friendly to the neighborhood and community because we are going to be a neighbor with that community,” Nelson said.  “If truck routes in the neighborhood need to change the neighbors knows best where those trucks need to go to reduce the impact in the neighborhood.”

Other people addressed the traffic congestion on 76th Street and the possibility of Wal-Mart expanding into a bigger, less friendly store in the future.

“That’s a good problem (traffic) to have when your business district is congested,” Hermes said. “It’s what the tenant makeup wants. In development of this proposal we have mandated that they (Wal-Mart) conduct a traffic study for the 76th Street corridor.”

As for future Wal-Mart expansion in Greendale, Hermes says he is not concerned with expansion because there is no additional space in the current parcel. Nelson also stated that Wal-Mart has no intention of expanding and the Greendale module is mainly focused on a market grocery and pharmacy.

Wal-Mart is no stranger to bad publicity with most recently an employment discrimination class-action suit. Residents, such as Garrity, also addressed concerns of unfair labor practice in Wal-Mart.

Others disagreed with that notion.

“Wal-Mart is a better corporate citizen than what people give them credit,” said community member Dave Miller. “I think that when a community group, school, promotions committee or celebrations committee ask for assistance I think Wal-Mart will be anxious to help.”

Wal-Mart is among other major development being done to the 76th Street Corridor. Greendale has two tax increment financing districts. Construction has started on the first TIF district of a $17 million project of the 90-unit senior housing complex adjecent to Southridge. The TIF district is the $52 million dollar project to redevelop Southridge Mall.

"As a village president I have to look at the business end of this deal and what it means to this village and the economics and sustanbility for the future of this community and we have asked the owners of the mall and we have asked community now," Hermes said. "We believe from the business aspect that any good commercial corridor or retail corrider has a makeup of a great retail tenant. That includes major retailer such as Wal-Mart."

The planning commission will be meeting on Wednesday, April 13 at 7 p.m. at the to discuss the Wal-Mart development and comments from the open house.

Kathy Borowski April 16, 2011 at 01:40 PM
OK. People are now asking good questions. We have to start somewhere, and maybe that means that the few people expressing an interest in at least talking about what we do next should meet and draw up a plan. Let us be our own leaders and see who else we can get on board to work with us. I think we need to meet ASAP. I would be happy to check with the library to see if their meeting room is available, or possibly meet at the restaurant in the Village (not open on Mondays, but we can work around that.) Right now I can meet weekends or during the day with notice, and certainly evenings. We must start somewhere, and we must start immediately. It doesn't matter if there are only 2 or 3 of us at the first meeting, at least we can say we tried. What happened in Madison recently should be an inspiration to all of us. my email address is: kathysart_decoration@yahoo.com for anyone interested in following up on this.
Lena April 20, 2011 at 11:16 AM
Public hearing - June 7. They are even talking about 24 hours open Wal Mart.
Bren April 20, 2011 at 03:50 PM
Sunny, I do fear it may be too late. All the rep I talked to would say is "We sent out a RFP and Walmart was the only retailer that responded." I'm not an attorney, but the only option I could think of was to suggest talking the property off the market until an appropriate retailer could be found. He wouldn't respond to that either so it's not an option or the village board wants the Walmart. I guess we should all get used to our elected government officials ignoring their constituents' wishes and following their own agenda. And I believe the article has a typo-the correct number in attendance is probably closer to 300-there were at least 75-100 people present when I was there. Another guest told us that a Walmart rep told her this would be a 24-hour store, so yes, we will have traffic 24 hours/day in and around Greendale. Other communities that have tried to stop Walmart at this point have been sued/steamrolled. A boycott will do little good because people from other communities will drive out to shop there. Lady Bird Johnson wrote about the "homogenization" of America in the '60s-how commercialization was destroying the unique flavor of American communities. And it's true. Bluemound Rd., 76th and 27th Sts., Pt. Washington Rd., etc., all look the same. Issues of traffic and community wishes aside, we have a responsibility to preserve and protect Greendale's heritage for the future.
Phil Reitz April 26, 2011 at 01:13 AM
Walmart. It even sounds declasse.
Sunny April 29, 2011 at 12:30 PM
You got that right, Phil


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