Commission wants more out of old Kmart building
Developer given until January to come up with bolder design plan

By Sarah Pryor - Freeman Staff

Dec. 11, 2014

Renderings show the current site (bottom) and a proposed upgrade (top) to the former Kmart building at 120 W. Sunset Drive. Wednesday night, the Plan Commission put plans for the development on hold, asking developers to come back with a bolder plan.
Submitted rendering

WAUKESHA - The Plan Commission agrees with most people in the city that the vacant Kmart building on Sunset Drive is an eyesore, but it doesn’t want just anything to come in and replace it.

Wednesday night, the commissioners unanimously voted to send the developer back to the drawing board for a more interesting design plan than the one submitted for the long-vacant 115,857-square-foot building, which prospective developers are planning to revamp with a 10,000-square-foot addition and two additional out lots.

Community Development Specialist Jeff Fortin said prospective developers are planning to split the building into several units depending on what types of tenants end up moving in.

Broker Jon Thoresen of Commercial Property Associates Inc. said if all goes as planned, the site will include a fitness center and more than one restaurant.

Commissioner R.G. Keller said he wished the architect would have made a “bolder, riskier” design statement with the building, such as varying roof heights. He said simply adding raised entrances for the various units is a “missed opportunity.”

Commissioner Joan Francoeur agreed, saying the current proposal gives the impression of a long, flat roof line.

However, architect Jeff Stowe said budget restrictions make it hard to create any “grand gestures” like Keller suggested.

Commissioner Kevin Larson said this new retail center could compete with The Shoppes at Fox River if it’s handled appropriately - especially since city money is involved.

Last month, the Common Council approved creating a tax incremental financing district on the site.

TIF District 22 will include an upfront incentive payment of $2 million and a $600,000 pay-as-you go TIF that will be paid back as the tax value is realized.

Finance Committee Chairman Joe Pieper said the site is currently assessed at $3.7 million, but the developer’s agreement includes a provision that the value will increase to a minimum of $13 million.

Keller also said he believed the parking lot was larger than necessary, and asked for some of the 600-plus parking stalls to be converted to green space.

Francoeur encouraged the prospective developers not to get discouraged.

“I think we’re all trying to do the same thing,” Francoeur said. “This building and its redesign will go on after the rest of us are not only not on this commission, but also not even on this planet, and we want to make sure it has a lasting impact and is of good quality.”

Francoeur made a motion to put the development on hold until the first  commission meeting in January, when the prospective developers can come back with a different set of plans.

In other business

On Wednesday evening, the Plan Commission:

* Approved preliminary plans for the Fox Head Residences, an apartment complex planned for 221 Maple Ave.

* Unanimously voted to declare Fire Station No. 3 as surplus land, as the first step in building a new fire station in the southwest part of the city.

* Did not approve final site plans for the Meadow Ridge Apartments, citing concern over the location of some transformers.