Alderman Bobby Pantuso and his son have made about 70 trips to Lowe's as the family takes on home improvement projects in recent months. Each time they drive along Burleigh Street and the scenery caused his 5-year-old boy to speak his mind.
"He said something to the effect of 'it looks like there was a war here,'" he said
The alderman's son is referring, of course, to the Burleigh Triangle, 70 acres bounded by Highway 45/Burleigh Street/railroad tracks and Currie Park. For at least eight years it has been the most talked about site for redevelopment, being called everything from the armpit or eyesore of Wauwatosa to a wasteland next to the freeway.
That could all change, but likely not quickly, with a proposal by Chicago-based HSA Commercial Real Estate that the city's Community Development Committee considered Tuesday.
High-end retail along freeway
The project called The Mayfair Collection at Wauwatosa would be broken into phases. The structure of the warehouse space along Highway 45 would be reused but significantly renovated to create about a quarter mile of retail space. Names such as Nordstrom Rack and The Container Store, which typically only open one or two stores in a state, are being tossed out as potential tenants.
The project came last on the list of several committee agendas, and the scope of the project resulted in a 45-minute presentation. Saying it was a lot of information to take in so late at night, the committee held the item for two weeks. The goal of a preliminary plan review is to determine if the committee is supportive of the concept in general and if so, put together a list of conditions and improvements that need to be met before bringing a more detailed, final plan forward.
Developer HSA Commercial President Daniel Miranda said he could wait two weeks to move forward but that decisions needed to come soon or retailers would find other places to locate.
"There's a window on this," he said. "We'll toil so long, then we'll stop. We own this property, we bought it, and we will lease industrial if we have to."
In general, aldermen liked reusing the buildings and wanted to believe that attracting the right retail would not only make it a shopping destination by spur interest for office and residential use in future phases when the economy picks up. But they have no guarantees.
Alderman Craig Wilson, who represents the district, said he "sees a lot of promise in this particular phase. I still feel there's plenty of opportunity to use this as a catalyst to begin seeing something happen on this site."
In addition, retail jobs don't exactly pay well and that type of development traffic could cause the city to spend more on road maintenance and emergency services.
Setting bad precedent?
There was also a concern that HSA planned to ask for financing assistance to put in infrastructure but the committee was provided no projections. Brian Randall, attorney for the developer, said he didn't want to mix land-use and funding discussions and that HSA planned to pay for the improvements such as widening Burleigh Street and burying unsightly overhead power lines upfront, with the intent to be reimbursed from tax increment generated by the development.
"This (design plan) is enough to bite off and chew as it is," he said, "This is a huge development. The financing will be for another day."
Alderman Dennis McBride said the city could be setting precedent by offering financial assistance for a retail development, especially in a city that has a large market sector. What if Mayfair mall came forward next, Tosa's biggest taxpayer, and said it wanted a TIF district, he asked.
Committee members mentioned another point of concern: HSA has spent the past five years acquiring 62 of the acres, but a parcel in the middle still belongs to TLC Logistics. The first phase could be built around TLC, Randall said.
Consultants hired in 2005 created a master plan for the triangle that offered two options, both of which had a mixed use but relied much more heavily on office space. That plan may have been realistic at the time, Pantuso said.
"Right now in this economy, this plan fits very well with the Burleigh Triangle," he said.
BY THE NUMBERS
The following are projected economic impacts of the first two phases of HSA's proposed development for the Burleigh Triangle:
existing real estate taxes paid on the site
projected real estate taxes from phase 1A, which calls for upscale retail fronting Highway 45
additional real estate tax after completion of phase 1B, retail and possibly office fronting Burleigh Street
projected state sales tax generated by the 1A development
projected state sales tax generated by the 1B development
full- and part-time jobs expected to come from phase 1A
WHAT: The Community Development Committee will consider a proposal for a retail development for the Burleigh Triangle
WHEN: 8 p.m. May 12
WHERE: City Hall, 7725 W. North Ave.
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