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.