Mayor Steve Ponto (left) and Dan Ertl, city community
development director, discussing a Marcus BistroPlex
cinema that could be built on the south end of
Brookfield Square Mall
later this year.
Hannah Weikel/Freeman Staff
BROOKFIELD — Brookfield Square Mall’s south end will
soon look entirely different, city officials say.
Redevelopment plans and land acquisitions are well
underway in the mall’s south end, which will see a new
conference center, hotel, a movie theater and several
high-end restaurants in the next few years.
plan to revitalize Brookfield Square and spin it forward
as an entertainment destination has been an ongoing
collaboration between city government, mall owner CBL &
Associates Properties Inc. and local tourism authorities
at Visit Brookfield — all have devoted time and money to
ensure the mall stays relevant in the age of online
shopping and specialty stores, said Brookfield Mayor
Historically, the mall has done fine on its own. It’s
located right off Interstate 94 in a city with middle-
to highincome residents and a swelling workforce that
brings thousands of people into the area every day.
Brookfield Square has adapted and reinvented itself over
the years with very little local government involvement,
but that’s starting to change.
have to do all we can to ensure that the mall does well
into the future,” Ponto said. “Brookfield Square is
very, very important to the economic well-being of the
city of Brookfield.”
Underperformance to entertainment
Sears at Brookfield Square Mall announced last month it
would close later in 2018, taking a rather sleepy side
of the mall into a tailspin.
CBL Properties, a Chattanooga, Tenn.-based company that
owns dozens of malls including Brookfield Square, had
made another announcement several months before; the
mall’s south end would be completely redeveloped and was
the future location of a Marcus BistroPlex cinema,
WhirlyBall facility and several new restaurants.
Properties bought Sears last year, along with a detached
and defunct Sears Auto Center nearby.
made it clear from the beginning that this was going to
be an entertainment development going forward,” Ponto
said. “Because of online shopping and shopping changes
in general, malls feel like they need to offer
BistroPlex theater would feature Dream-Lounger recliner
seating, a standalone bar and lounge, and dining inside
all eight screening rooms. Next door, the first
WhirlyBall facility in Wisconsin will have a number of
courts devoted to a game that melds whiffle ball, bumper
cars and lacrosse.
Since CBL Properties bought the mall in the early 2000s,
they’ve taken steps to update and diversify the store
offerings, like a two-story Barnes & Noble bookstore
built several years ago, said Dan Ertl, city community
this is five leaps forward,” Ertl said of the south end
Sears will still have a small presence in the mall with
an approximately 18,000 square-foot store selling
appliances and mattresses, he said.
CBL Properties spokesman declined to comment for this
story and said the company won’t release additional
details of the redevelopment for another few months.
CBL Properties investing in Brookfield Square, city
officials have also decided to purchase 9.5 acres
surrounding the Sears Auto Center and build a conference
center and hotel in its place.
city recently entered a purchase agreement with CBL
Properties for around $850,000 per acre for the 9.5
acres — 2.5 of which will be resold to North Central
Group, a Middleton-based hotel property manager, for a
170-room Hilton Garden Inn attached to the conference
center. North Central has also agreed to manage the
conference center, said Andy Inman, vice president of
four-lane road would run between the mall and conference
center with lighting, sidewalks, landscaping and a bus
stop, Ertl said.
“It’s not very pedestrian-friendly today,” Ertl said of
the parking lot on the south end. “You take your life in
your hands if you try to cross that lot.“ Project
architects are tasked with creating a “live, work, play”
environment with an easily traversable space between the
mall and conference center, Ertl said.
think the conference center being there will have a
synergistic effect,” Ponto said. “The conference center
there will be good for the mall and I think it will also
make the conference center a more attractive location.”
Brookfield Square is the largest real estate taxpayer in
Waukesha County and in the city.
city is slated to spend about $24 million on the
conference center project, but the development’s
expected benefits in the region are priceless, said
Nancy Justman, president and CEO of Visit Brookfield.
Justman said Brookfield loses business every year
because it doesn’t have a meeting space big enough to
accommodate groups larger than 300 people.
“We’ve been focused on going after business that we
can’t currently accommodate. It’s not cannibalism of the
business that’s already here,” she said.
Visit Brookfield has been involved in the conference
center from the start. It helped fund a feasibility
study five years ago and two other studies when the city
was looking at other locations, like the Bluemound Road
corridor, Justman said.
Before the city had settled on the Brookfield Square
location, officials learned the state changed its rules
on hotel room tax revenue, she said.
Cities must now spend a whopping 70 percent on tourism
promotion, up from 30 percent, Ponto said.
of the things now considered tourism promotion is having
a conference center, so the city realized it had ample
funding for the project, he said.
would much rather spend the money on a conference center
than advertising,” Ponto said.
state has allowed Brookfield to raise its hotel room tax
to 10 percent, up from 8 percent, if it spends the
difference on a conference center. Visit Brookfield
handles the room tax revenue, and has agreed that the
money will be returned to the city to help pay off bonds
for the conference center project, Justman said.
city is expected to close on the land at the southern
end of the mall at the end of June and will begin work
to reroute the site’s utilities shortly thereafter,
Ponto said. During the following 12 to 16 months, the
conference center and hotel will be constructed.
“There’s a lot happening with retail, and I think it’s
difficult to position our retail in a way that will make
it successful,” Ponto said when asked if he thought the
redevelopment would keep the mall open into the
far-reaching future. “There will undoubtedly be more
challenges with malls going forward.”
<<RELATED: Brookfield area having new-business boom