Brookfield Square changes will go beyond Sears redevelopment
City, developers looking at replacing Toys R Us, Boston Store sites

By Dave Fidlin - Special to The Freeman

July 10, 2018

 Crews work Monday to tear down the structure at the end of Brookfield Square mall that once housed Sears. It will be replaced by a movie theater, entertainment-focused restaurant and a conference center.
Katherine Michalets/Freeman Staff

BROOKFIELD — As talk of Brookfield Square’s metamorphosis has heated up in the first half of 2018, much of the attention has been focused on the redevelopment of the Sears department store and auto center sites.

But recent dramatic shifts within the retail industry mean more changes are afoot at the half century-old shopping mall, which its owner says is adapting and adjusting to shifts in consumer behavior and desires.

The spring announcements that Toys R Us Inc. and The Bon-Ton Stores Inc. would be liquidating means two big box vacancies have arisen at and near the mall.

Wayne, N.J.-based Toys R Us, which closed all its remaining stores June 29, leaves behind a big-box building at 355 S. Moorland Road.

Bon-Ton, dual headquartered in Milwaukee and York, Pa., operates locally as Boston Store. The company will shutter all of its locations — including the Brookfield Square anchor store at 15875 W. Bluemound Road — by the end of next month.

Dan Ertl, director of community development with the city of Brookfield, said the department he leads has both sites high on the radar screen, though he confirmed this week there was nothing to report at this time.

“No redevelopment plans on either site have come forward,” Ertl said. “But the city remains optimistic something will fill their shoes shortly.”

 Once filled with the items kids’ dreams are made of, Toys R Us, 355 S. Moorland Road,
sits empty in Brookfield.
Katherine Michalets/Freeman Staff

One piece of the puzzle in charting the next phases for Boston Store and Toys R Us is the ownership group and agreements in place.

In the case of Boston Store, a developer known as BT Multi LLC owns the Brookfield Square anchor store, according to Waukesha County assessment records.

A filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission reveals BT Multi LLC was established three years ago. Bon-Ton previously owned the Brookfield Square Boston Store outright, but sold it to a real estate trust in a sale-leaseback arrangement.

The SEC filing in June 2015 revealed Bon-Ton at the time received $84 million for the sale of six sites, which also included local Boston Store locations at Mayfair and Southridge malls.

Stacey Keating is spokeswoman with CBL Properties, the Chattanooga, Tenn.-based firm that owns most of Brookfield Square. While Boston Store continues to operate in its anchor space through the summer, Keating said CBL is working cooperatively to strategize next steps.

“We are working with the owner on redevelopment plans that will elevate the building into a more productive use for the property,” Keating said.

In the case of Toys R Us, its future is murkier, though the site is being marketed and auctioned off as a part of the company’s bankruptcy.

Despite its close proximity to the new hotel and conference center planned for the south side of Brookfield Square, Ertl this spring confirmed Toys R Us’ standalone store was not a part of the redevelopment plans.

Other smaller-scale announcements also have arisen in recent weeks at Brookfield Square. Vici Capilli ceased operations at the mall late last month after 26 years in operation.

“Our lease is up, and we’ve kind of been looking for another place, and we haven’t been able to find one yet,” Penny Rushing, owner of Vici Capilli, told The Freeman last week. “We’re moving our stylist and our complete staff (to a West Allis location) so nobody has lost their job.”