Milwaukee leaders look for alternatives as big grocery stores close

Posted at 6:46 PM, Jun 06, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-06 19:46:31-04

The city of Milwaukee is looking at alternatives to closed big box stores across the landscape, such as several Pick ‘n Save locations.

Pick and Save confirmed Tuesday that more stores are on their list for closure this summer including six stores in Wisconsin. From Sheboygan to Kenosha, five are in Southeastern Wisconsin including the store on W. Silver Spring Drive in Milwaukee.

City planners have worked with Urban designers to come up with alternative uses for many properties that have closed in recent years.

In some cases several businesses have divided up the large spaces that used to be stores like Walmart or Menards. Much of that requires rezoning by the planning commission or common council.

"Vacant space is an opportunity to bring neighbors the types of businesses or types of resources or services they are looking for in their neighborhood," said city of Milwaukee Long Range Planning Manager Sam Leichtling.

Leichtling has worked with urban planners like Carolyn Esswein of UW-Milwaukee.

“It's concerning when it sits vacant because it sends a message of blight even if everything else around it is thriving because it's such a big footprint," Esswein said

However, the city struggles to quickly reuse closed big box stores when the current lease holder continues to pay the rent. The city of West Allis says the old Pick ‘n Save on Greenfield near Highway 100 is such a case.

There is a lease on the building that doesn't expire until next year. Industry experts tell TODAY'S TMJ4 that sometimes it is more cost effective for the companies to continue to pay the lease on an empty store, rather than keep an underperforming location open.

"When we exit a property, we work in tandem with the property owner to find a replacement tenant," said Pick ‘n Save's parent company Roundy's said in a statement Tuesday.

The city of Milwaukee and Esswein's group Community Design Solutions continue to work on other properties across the city.