Sears property redevelopment underway at Brookfield Square
BistroPlex, WhirlyBall part of first phase of plans for mall’s southeast side

By Dave Fidlin - Special to The Freeman

April 10, 2018

 Interior demolition work has begun at the Sears building, stripped of its signage, at Brookfield Square. A dumpster and outdoor restrooms are the first signs of construction equipment at the site.
Dave Fidlin/Special to The Freeman

BROOKFIELD — Three weeks have passed since Sears closed its longtime Brookfield Square store, and mall management say customers will soon begin noticing changes to the property’s southeast side.

Three confirmed restaurant and entertainment destinations will soon take the place of Sears, a mainstay at the mall for more than half a century. A Marcus BistroPlex, first announced last summer, will occupy a portion of the property.

Also taking root at the site are two restaurant and entertainment options making their debuts in Wisconsin: WhirlyBall, a bar and restaurant offering such amenities as bumper cars, and Uncle Julio’s, a Mexican eatery touting its use of fresh ingredients.

Stacey Keating is a spokeswoman with CBL Properties, the Chattanooga, Tenn.-based firm that owns most of Brookfield Square, including the Sears site. In an interview with The Freeman, Keating confirmed Sears has vacated the site, and interior demolition work is underway.

Sears Holdings Corp., the Hoffman Estates, Ill.-based owners of the Sears and Kmart banners, confirmed in January it was holding a liquidation sale and leaving the premises. The two-and-a-half-month closing sale wrapped up March 18.

“Demolition work has already begun at the Sears site,” Keating said. “Inside prep work is already underway.”

In the weeks ahead, Keating said crews will begin tearing down most of the 160,000-square-foot structure to accommodate the new tenants. A firm date has not been set, but Keating indicated the site will start being barricaded to the public in early May.

A rendering of the BistroPlex theater planned for the current Sears
department store site at Brookfield Square.
Submitted rendering

CBL has not announced when the trio of confirmed eateries and entertainment destinations will open their doors, Keating said, though the BistroPlex and Whirly-Ball are part of the first phase of redevelopment for the site.

“We will be announcing some other retailers for this site in the coming weeks,” Keating said. “We’re still working through plans for the rest of the development.”

Stephen Lebovitz, president and CEO of CBL Properties, in a statement said the redevelopment work underway positions Brookfield Square for success in the years ahead.

“Since acquiring the Sears building last year and announcing our plans for redevelopment, we have received significant demand from a variety of users interested in being a part of this transformative project,” Lebovitz said in the statement.

Many of the traditional mall-based department stores have been in precarious situations at the hands of online shopping, heightened competition from fast-casual clothiers and other factors.

The loss of a department store — oftentimes dubbed an anchor store because of its one-time magnetic draw — was once viewed as the beginning of a mall’s death spiral. More recently, however, mall owners such as CBL Properties have looked at other uses for their properties by relying less on department stores.

With Sears out of the equation, Brookfield Square has two remaining department stores — JCPenney and Boston Store — though the latter could be shutting down as parent company The Bon-Ton Stores continue to work through bankruptcy proceedings.

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