Brookfield Square Mall's metamorphosis continues
WhirlyBall, Marcus BistroPlex set to open in late summer or fall

By Dave Fidlin - Special to Conley Media

March 7, 2019

 Parts of Brookfield Square Mall continue to be transformed Wednesday as the mall’s owners look to keep the shopping center vibrant with new entertainment and shopping options.
Brandon Anderegg/Freeman Staff

BROOKFIELD — Since its inception more than a half-century ago, Brookfield Square has been known as one of Waukesha County’s major shopping metropolises.

But as consumer spending habits and large-scale changes within the retail industry continue at a brisk pace this year, mall management continues to careen the venerable property in a new direction.

While it remains a focal point, Brookfield Square is scaling down on traditional retail space and repurposing some of its land for destination- type establishments, such as restaurants and entertainment venues. It is a playbook occurring at malls elsewhere in the U.S.

Last year, Brookfield Square lost two of its three department store anchors within a six-month span. Sears sold its last Craftsman tool in March, while Boston Store closed its longtime doors at the tail end of summer.

A one-two punch of large-scale changes could have once spelled trouble for a regional shopping mall, but Stacey Keating, spokeswoman with CBL Properties, said executives have been working vigorously behind the scenes to ensure Brookfield Square remains a vital part of the Greater Milwaukee marketplace.

Chattanooga, Tenn.-based CBL Properties owns most of Brookfield Square. JCPenney and the former Boston Store buildings are under separate ownership.

In an email interview with The Freeman, Keating offered a status update on Brookfield Square’s southeast end, which has been dotted with construction equipment since demolition began on the former Sears big box space early last summer.

WhirlyBall and a Marcus BistroPlex are slated to replace the former Sears site. When asked about their status, Keating said, “We don’t have a concrete date,” for either establishment. However, she said WhirlyBall could be up and running as soon as late summer, while the BistroPlex has been targeted tentatively for fall.

Outback Steakhouse, which is relocating from its current site south of the mall, near the Brookfield- New Berlin border, is set to occupy one of the Sears outlots, near the already operating Uncle Julio’s.

“Outback plans to begin construction in the spring and plans to open this summer,” Keating said.

Internal changes

Inside the mall, there are a number of changes afoot — many pointing to broader issues within the retail industry across the U.S.

Brookfield Square is about to shed several of its inline stores as a number of struggling retail chains, some in bankruptcy, are reducing their national footprint or outright liquidating the entire fleet.

Brookfield Square will soon lose such longtime mall staples as Charlotte Russe, Gymboree and Payless Shoes.

Keating said CBL management had been prepared for the potential losses before the closures were announced and also remarked the shifts will present new opportunities in the future.

“These retailers have been on our internal watch list for some time, and their filings are not a surprise,” Keating said of the trio of retailers mentioned.

Permanent and temporary replacements are being sought, she said, adding, “These closures provide us an opportunity to bring in more diverse uses and position our properties for more success, long-term. Once plans are finalized, and leases signed for these specific locations, we’ll be excited to share more details.”

While extensive changes have taken place on Brookfield Square’s southeast corridor, the northeast side of the mall sits dormant as questions abound on the future of the former Boston Store space.

At this time, Keating said, there is no further information to share on the Boston Store site. But she said CBL management continues to work proactively to seek a long-term solution to the vacancy.

“This location is still under separate ownership,” Keating said. “We are working with the owner to identify redevelopment opportunities that will elevate the building into a productive use for the property.”

As the number of national mall-based retailers has declined in recent decades, malls such as Brookfield Square have relied more on local retailers to fill in some of the gaps.

As 2019 unfolds, Keating said CBL is planning its continuation of Small Business Expos into the mall. Four shows are slated this year: April 5-7, May 3-5, Aug. 16-18 and Nov. 2224.

“The Small Business Expos provide an opportunity for local retailers and vendors to interact with Brookfield Square shoppers,” Keating said.

Also in the works is a pair of Pet Expos — one set for May 18, the other on Oct. 19.

“Shoppers and vendors are invited to bring their leashed pet and enjoy a day devoted to our furry family members,” Keating said.

<<EARLIER: Brookfield Square changes will go beyond Sears redevelopment

<<EARLIER: Sears property redevelopment underway at Brookfield Square