BistroPlex theater planned at Sears space

By Hannah Weikel - Freeman Staff

August 29, 2017

Locally-operated Marcus Theatres announced plans Monday to redevelop a Sears department store at the south end of Brookfield Square to make way for a new BistroPlex dining and movie entertainment venue.
Freeman file photo

BROOKFIELD - Locally-operated Marcus Theatres announced plans Monday to redevelop a Sears department store at the south end of Brookfield Square Mall to make way for a new BistroPlex dining and movie entertainment venue.

Marcus Theatres, an offshoot of The Marcus Corporation, reached an agreement with CBL & Associates Properties Inc. - a Chattanooga, Tenn.-based real estate and shopping center redeveloper and owner of Brookfield Square since 2001 - to include a BistroPlex movie theater as part of a larger redevelopment project proposed for the southern end of the mall. The project is expected to break ground next year.

Rolando Rodriguez, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Marcus Theaters, said the project has been in the works for a long time and Marcus is excited to be part of the larger entertainment development.

Brookfield Square will be the second location for a Marcus BistroPlex, described by the company as a restaurant that serves movies. Southridge Mall in Greendale made way for one of the restaurant movie theaters, which opened June 30.

“Brookfield Square is the perfect location for our second BistroPlex. We have long been attracted to this area given its favorable demographics, long-established recognition as a shopping and entertainment destination ample parking and easy freeway access,” Rodriguez said.

The mall’s last major development was in 2004, when a cluster of restaurants were built along the exterior when there was a push for sit-down restaurants for shoppers. The mall itself was built in 1967 and has had a one-screen cinema that was taken out two decades ago to make way for what is now the food court.

Sears trending down

The structure and larger 33-acre piece of property that will be developed as part of Brookfield Square’s new entertainment corridor was purchased by CBL in January in a major transaction between the company and Sears.

Sears and other department stores have struggled greatly in recent years due to shoppers flocking to online retailers like Amazon and competition from other big box stores that sell appliances and kitchen wares.

Stacey Keating, spokeswoman for CBL and Brookfield Square, said CBL is focusing on buying department stores for renewal and redevelopment.

The real estate company has bought 20 Sears stores over the last several years and plans to redevelop them for entertainment purposes are underway for each, including five purchased in a $72.5 million deal in January, she said.

The five Sears locations are at Cross Creek Mall in Fayetteville, North Carolina; Hamilton Place Mall in Chattanooga; Eastgate Mall in Cincinnati, Ohio; Jefferson Mall in Louisville, Kentucky; and Brookfield Square.

As part of the sale to CBL, the stores had the option to sign a 10-year lease on the buildings, but had to agree to CBL’s right to terminate the lease at any time with a six-month notice. The Sears at Brookfield Square will continue to operate as normal until the redevelopment schedule is finalized, but plans to keep a 15,000 square-foot corner of the premises, Keating said. 

“We are pro-actively transforming our market-dominant shopping centers to meet the changing preferences of consumers. This transaction provides CBL with the opportunity to redevelop prime real estate and attract exciting new uses at some of our best shopping centers,” said Stephen Lebovitz, CBL president and CEO, in a press release.

Keating said people are looking for a more diverse experience at shopping malls, especially dining and entertainment.

Competition to the west

Executives of The Corners - a new outdoor shopping center four miles west of Brookfield Square in the Town of Brookfield - have also caught on to the entertainment idea and are planning a nine-screen Silverspot movie theater.

But the Marcus Corporation, a development partner of The Corners, is staunchly against the idea of a Silverspot movie theater, according to Rodriguez. 

“We hope they really think this though,” he said. “It’s not something [The Corners] building was built for.”

The Town of Brookfield’s municipal architecture planning panel sees things differently, approving the movie theater earlier this month.

Rodriguez said a theater was planned for Brookfield Square before The Corners was built and believes The Marcus Corporation has some say in what comes in and out of the new shopping center.

Marcus Theatres has a number of existing locations in the area, including the flagship Majestic Cinema in the Town of Brookfield, Ridge Cinema in New Berlin, Menomonee Falls Cinema and Hillside Cinema in Delafield.

David Ertl, Brookfield director of community development, said what’s planned at The Corners is different from the proposed BistroPlex and entertainment corridor that will replace part of Brookfield Square.

Entertainment corridor

Although planning for the new BistroPlex is in its infancy, it’s slated to include multiple auditoriums with in-theatre dining, a stand-alone bar and lounge, reclining seats and an outdoor dining area.

The current Sears building is attached to Brookfield Square but juts out toward Interstate 94 and shares some parking with a Sheraton hotel. The redevelopment of Sears is just the beginning of what mall owners are calling an entertainment destination.

“BistroPlex is the first key component to our plans for the overall redevelopment of Brookfield Square and we look forward to making additional announcements in the near future,” CBL’s Lebovitz said in a press release.

Brookfield Mayor Steve Ponto fully supports Brookfield Square’s redevelopment plans and noted that the mall is Waukesha County’s largest taxpayer and an integral economic complex for the area.

Ponto said the city is looking at a new conference center and hotel at the southern end as well. He said people will enjoy parking in one spot to stay, eat, shop and - soon - watch movies.


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