Von Maur: The store that got away

No doubt CBL is singing the blues now that Von Maur is committed to a new town center in the Town of Brookfield instead of their regional mall Brookfield Square in the City. Here are a couple (one and two) of articles on the kerfuffle surrounding the news.

The City of Brookfield is mad that the state is allowing the Town to implement a TIF district in order to help subsidize some of the Marcus company’s planned infrastructure. The City, you see, implemented a TIF district of its own to spur mall development a few years ago. All it spurred were a few new chain restaurants in the outlots, the relocation and subsequently very empty Capitol Drive retail space for Ethan Allen, and a lot of promises that it appears will never be kept. In addition, the new outlot buildings have created a parking fiasco for the mall that worsens with every snow.

In short it’s a mess. And though a couple of us on the Brookfield Common Council were able to see through the hype and realize the weaknesses in this economic development plan, a strong majority, including then City Alderman and now Mayor Steve Ponto, thought the idea was swell. I couldn’t help but snicker when I heard he’d gone to the state hearings to try to keep the Town’s TIF from going through. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my time in politics around here it’s that Republicans never see the downside to anything labeled economic development. What’s good for the City is going to be good for the Town, dag nabbit.

So, the prized catch of Von Maur will stand alone in a new easily-parked mini-mall – which might also be described as a couple of railroaded strip malls – and take all that potential revenue from CBL and the City of Brookfield when Brookfield Square goes unchosen. The wallflower at the high school dance, Brookfield Square will continue to be haunted by too little parking and too many restaurants and never have a parking deck or properly balanced foot traffic. Von Maur will stand alone as the store that got away.

Don’t expect it all to go so well for the Town, either. I suspect they will see some of their strip malls empty out. In particular, it would be likely that Talbot’s and Chico’s would head to the new upscale establishment down the road.

The bottom line? More subsidized development creating more empty storefronts. It will be a long, long time before the corridor is rebalanced.