New details on future uses for Sears site
City panel recommends moving forward with multi-tenant use plan

By Dave Fidlin - Special to The Freeman

Dec. 12, 2017

BROOKFIELD — The overhaul of Brookfield Square’s southeast corner continued to take shape Monday, following a panel’s recommendation to proceed with a proposal to raze most of the existing Sears building.

The city Plan Commission recommended a series of preliminary details linked to the current 29acre Sears parcel. The proposal, which advances to the Common Council, reconfigures how the land beneath the existing department store space will be used in the future.

Sears owned its building separately from the rest of the mall up until early this year when it was sold to Brookfield Square owner CBL Properties, based in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The department store has continued operations in its existing footprint through a leaseback agreement.

This coming year, Sears will drastically shrink its existing footprint of about 160,000 square feet down to 18,000 square feet.

A previously approved BistroPlex, operated by Marcus Cinemas, will encompass 41,652 square feet.

Also included in renderings is a 2-level restaurant and bumper car establishment known as Whirlyball. It is expected to consume about 45,000 square feet.

The reconfiguration includes space for three as-yet unnamed tenants, each operating out of space between 1,870 square feet and 2,000 square feet.

As part of the plans, CBL anticipates a 48,000-squarefoot reduction in the amount of gross leasable space, compared to the current layout.

Dan Ertl, director of community development, said his office has recommended moving forward with the redevelopment. He pointed out CBL’s plans for the site are consistent with trends taking place in healthy malls elsewhere in the U.S.

“Mall owners are reinventing themselves by moving away from strictly retail to softer uses,” Ertl said, pointing to restaurants and event-related venues as mechanisms for the modern-day evolution.

The Plan Commission’s recommendation Monday centered on the configuration of the land use and architectural details.

Graham Post, senior project architect with KA Architecture, said the few remaining areas of the existing Sears building, including the east-facing portion, will be updated with new brick and masonry in a move away from the building’s 1960s-era origins.

Commissioners favored the renderings and preliminary details furnished at Monday’s meeting.

“We’ve seen a lot of this before,” said Alderman Mark Nelson, who serves on the Plan Commission. “It’s consistent with what I expected.”

A portion of the project, Ertl said, includes a public-private partnership that is set to include infrastructure and utility upgrades in the area, including the deteriorating ring road running by the existing department store.

Specifics, including how much the city and CBL will financially contribute, will be fleshed out further in coming months.

At Monday’s meeting, Ertl and CBL representatives also announced they were halting previously approved plans of building a parking garage near Boston Store and adding new retail uses in that area of the mall.

“Right now, I would say it’s being abandoned,” Ken Wittler, vice president of development with CBL, said of the Boston Store plans when pressed by commissioners. “It could come back, but we are focusing on the Sears end of the mall right now.”

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