Meijer store could open in Oak Creek

Retailer eyes location at Drexel Town Square development

Jan. 16, 2013

Drexel Town Square is the tentative site for a 193,000-square-foot Meijer department store.

Jerry Franke, president of Wispark, owner and developer of the Drexel Town Square property, presented that information along with the fact that Wispark will give 35 percent of its profits on the Town Square project to the city.

"We are sharing the risk, we are sharing the reward," Franke said.

A contract between the city and Meijer has been drafted, but nothing has been finalized.

The contract would have the Michigan-based retail outlet purchase the land for its new site at market value, and with profit-sharing from Wispark, that would help offset the $19.9 million tax-incremental financing commitment the city has made.

Meijer has long been in talks with Franklin about a move to that community, and plans have stalled while issues with the state Department of Natural Resources were being explored.

Franklin officials did not return calls seeking comment Tuesday morning.

Dining at Drexel

Franke went on to give the Oak Creek council an overview of the Drexel Town Square's future.

Proposals for the 85-acre site, which will include a new City hall and library, would see the development of 500 to 600 high-end apartment units, sit-down style restaurants, coffee shops and microbreweries. An open space north of the proposed City Hall could include a splash pad or ice skating rink.

The apartments could be designed by architect Rick Barrett, who has worked on many projects including the 30-story condominium Moderne in Milwaukee.

Barrett said the apartments could bring 4,000 jobs to the area, adding "This is where we want to put our next project. I want it to be here."

Like the contract with Meijer, nothing has been set in stone with the other developments, but plans are on the table.

Blair Williams, president of WiRED, also has his hands in the Town Square development, presenting a vision for what the retail side will look like.

Stressing the importance of the civic buildings, Williams said, "Main Street needs to have people on the street. This is coffee to cocktails. This is an 18-hour day for activity on the street and a 24-hour community with heads in beds at night. It's an environment that really is dedicated to the cultivation of community."

Matchmaking to Meijer

John Melaniphy, a site selection specialist with more than 40 years of experience in Milwaukee, was charged with finding the right retail space for Drexel Town Square. He looked at the consumption habits, age and income of Oak Creek residents and the proximity of stores like Target, Kohls and Walmart.

Two options became apparent to Melaniphy: a cluster of small-box stores - the size of a Best Buy, for instance - or one large retail store to anchor the square would be needed to bring small stores and foot traffic to the area.

He went to the International Shopping Center Conference to see if the cluster could work. Each store he approached asked who the real anchor was, none confident with the idea of the cluster.

He determined the square needed an anchor and that Meijer was the best candidate. The store expressed interest in the area and would fit the area's average income.

Melaniphy sees Oak Creek leading a trend in American cities with big-box retail like Meijer and sit-down restaurants and coffee shops merged.

"What we're going to end up with when we get done is what I call a hybrid shopping center," he said, adding: "That's what's going to be built around this country. Not malls, not lifestyle. They're going to be hybrid. That will work here."

Next Step

WHAT: public comment on proposed Drexel Town Square

WHERE: Oak Creek Community Center, 8580 S. Howell Ave.

WHEN: 6 p.m. Feb. 11

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