Von Maur department store to anchor major Brookfield retail center

Published on: 3/3/2011

A $30 million Von Maur department store would anchor a planned retail center in the Town of Brookfield, marking the Iowa-based chain’s first store in Wisconsin.

The 150,000-square-foot Von Maur store would be the largest tenant in a 450,000-square-foot open-air retail and office development, said Shawn Lundie, district director for state Sen. Richard Zipperer (R-Pewaukee).

It would be the first new department store built in the Milwaukee area in decades. While some department store brand names, such as Macy's, have entered our area in recent years, they have done so through acquisition of existing department store chains.

Von Maur has cash available to finance construction of its three-story building, which it would own, Zipperer said. Construction on the development is to begin this summer, with the stores opening by the 2012 holiday shopping season, he said.

Additional buildings would be developed by Marcus Corp., one of the development site's land owners, said Bruce Westling, president of MLG Commercial, the project's consultant and listing broker. He said tenants are being lined up for the other buildings, but declined to disclose their names.

Preliminary plans call for around 200,000 square feet of additional store and restaurant space, and around 100,000 square feet of office space, with much of that in two- and three-story buildings, Westling said. The development also would have 1,900 parking spaces, as well as a street grid in a town center design, he said.

Davenport-based Von Maur is a high end specialty department store that has been called the “Nordstrom of the Midwest.”

The company has tried to find a site in the Milwaukee area for about 15 years but has been stymied by objections from the operators of the Boston Store, president Jim von Maur told the Journal Sentinel's retail reporter, Doris Hajewski, in an interview in 2006.

Department stores such as Boston Store have longstanding agreements with malls that allow them to block competitors from entering the centers they occupy.

Most recently, Von Maur has been mentioned as an additional anchor store for a new wing proposed at Brookfield Square. At the same time, however, von Maur has said the company was continuing to look at other locations. The Brookfield Square plan has not moved forward.

The development would be built on 16 acres north of I-94 and east of Barker Road. The site is now occupied by a vacant Menards home improvement store, and Marcus Corp.’s former West Point Cinemas.

Zipperer and Rep. Paul Farrow (R-Pewaukee) are sponsoring legislation that would allow the town to create a tax incremental financing district to help fund the project. Unlike villages and cities, Wisconsin towns are not allowed to create TIF districts for retail developments.

That legislation passed the Senate on a 19-0 vote, and had a hearing Thursday before the Assembly Committee on Jobs, the Economy and Small Business. The committee is to vote on the proposed legislation on March 10.

Von Maur stores focus on fashion apparel in a format similar to Nordstrom, including the grand piano at the center of the store.

The stores feature a large shoe department with brands such as Donald J. Pliner, Cole Haan, and Stuart Weitzman. Clothing and accessory brands include Kate Spade, Burberry, Bugatchi, David Yurman, Lagos, Tommy Bahama, Juicy Couture, Lucky and 7 for all Mankind.

The company operates 25 stores in the Midwest, in Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska and Ohio. Von Maur’s closest store to Milwaukee is Glenview, Ill., at the Glenview Town Center.

The Brookfield Von Maur store would cost $25 million to $30 million to build, while the overall project would be valued at around $120 million, Westling said.

The project is expected to create over 500 construction jobs, as well as 400 retail and office jobs once the development is completed. The Von Maur store would have 110 full-time employees.

Doris and I are working to get more information on this project, and plan to have updates on JSOnline and in Friday's Journal Sentinel.