Former Sears Auto site could give way to hotel, conference center
City mulling purchase of 9.5-acre site; due diligence efforts underway

By Dave Fidlin - Special to The Freeman

June 21, 2017

 The Sears Auto Center at Brookfield Square closed last month. The main Sears department store, far right, remains open.
Dave Fidlin/Special to The Freeman

BROOKFIELD - A recently emptied auto repair center building on the southern perimeter of Brookfield Square could give way to a hotel and conference center.

The Brookfield Common Council on Tuesday adopted a resolution that gives municipal officials and hired consultants the authority to inspect a 9.5-acre parcel of land that includes Sears Auto Center, 115 S. Moorland Road, and surrounding parking lots.

Brookfield Square Anchor S, LLC, an affiliate of Chattanooga, Tennessee-based property management firm CBL and Associates, owns the land and could sell it to the city for the potential large-scale redevelopment project.

The council's adoption of the so-called access and due diligence agreement followed a series of maneuvers early this month.

The council on June 6 hired Minneapolis-based architecture and engineering firm Hammel Green and Abrahamson to conduct an infrastructure, traffic and environmental study of the former Sears Auto Center, which closed in late May.

HGA's services will cost $76,664. The firm's analysis is expected to wrap in six to eight weeks.

In a memo, Dan Ertl, director of community development, said he believed HGA would assist the city in making an informed decision on the property's future.

"The HGA-led team includes engineering firms that are very familiar with the Brookfield Square mall property, have completed work for the current mall owner and/or are knowledgeable of Wisconsin DNR environmental rules and grant programs," Ertl wrote.

 "Because of this level of expertise, and a need for timely completion of the identified tasks, city staff did not secure other quotes, but are comfortable with the costs quoted for this due diligence effort."

Until recently, Hoffman Estates, Illinois-based Sears Holdings Corporation owned the main Sears department store and ancillary auto center building.

Both operations were sold to the CBL and Associates affiliate in a lease-back agreement that gave Sears Holdings a one-time cash infusion, though monthly rental payments are now part of the terms between the parties.

Sears Holdings, which also operates Kmart, has been closing scores of stores in an attempt at staying afloat.

In April, Sears Holdings announced 50 Sears auto centers, including the Brookfield Square location, and 92 Kmart pharmacies across the U.S. would close.

Last week, Sears Holdings announced it would close nearly 70 stores under both nameplates, including the Kmart in West Allis.

The main Sears, one of three anchor department stores at Brookfield Square, remains open.

In other business

The council also held a public hearing for a proposed assisted living and memory care facility eyed on land at 16050-16100 W. Greenfield Ave.

Dallas-based Cadis Acquisition Partners has pitched a 116,200-square-foot facility that would comprise about 70 percent assisted living residences and 30 percent memory care accommodations.

According to representatives of the developers, monthly rents in the complex would range from $2,000 to $6,000, depending upon the level of service.

The city would need to rezone the land to bring Cadis' plans to fruition.