Hearing set on Herzing’s planned reuse of Fresh Market site
Public can weigh in on proposal Feb. 11

By Dave Fidlin - Special to The Freeman

Jan. 17, 2019

BROOKFIELD — The proposed transformation of a former high-end grocery store space into a university campus building in Brookfield moved one step closer to reality this week.

The Common Council on Tuesday voted to schedule a public hearing for the proposal, which calls for Herzing University relocating its Brookfield campus into the former Fresh Market building at 15895 W. Bluemound Road.

The scheduled hearing is a pivotal step under city code in bringing to fruition Herzing’s plans to occupy the 23,000-square-foot building, which has sat dormant since July when Fresh Market decided to leave the Milwaukee market in a round of store closings.

The city Plan Commission will host the hearing, which has been scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Feb. 11.

The university, which has roots stretching back to 1965, began operating in Brookfield in 2010 within a multi-tenant building at 555 S. Executive Drive. Herzing, which has about 6,500 students enrolled, has nine campuses across the U.S.

Aldermen did not weigh in on Herzing’s plans for the Fresh Market space at Tuesday’s meeting, opting instead to issue the swift vote in favor of the upcoming public hearing.

But the Plan Commission, which met Monday, did comb through the proposal during an initial presentation of the conceptual plans.

Renee Herzing, president of Herzing University, went before commissioners early this week and laid out the rationale for relocating the local campus to a former retail space.

“We’re here to tell you what a great partner we think we can be,” Herzing said. “We think this can be a great, symbiotic partnership.”

CBL Properties, the Tennessee- based firm that owns most of Brookfield Square — including the former freestanding Fresh Market space — has signed off on Herzing’s proposal, citing its desire to transition the mall from a strictly retail site to a mixed-use suburban town center model.

Herzing and CBL executives said the university’s presence on the mall property would be mutually beneficial. The university targets career-age adults who are seeking specialized fields, including nursing, health care and physical therapy.

Alderman Gary Mahkorn, who sits on the Plan Commission, said he was skeptical of the proposal when he first learned of it last week.

“We’re firmly protective of the Bluemound Road corridor,” Mahkorn said, pointing out it is an important part of the city’s economic lifeblood. “We want to see it thrive.”

But after meeting with Herzing executives and learning CBL was behind the plans, Mahkorn said he was receptive to the reuse of Fresh Market.

“Herzing is not fly-by-night,” Mahkorn said.

Once commissioners host the public hearing next month, a formal recommendation will be forwarded to the decision-making council for further deliberation and action.