There’s a reason why retailers flock to the Wisconsin city of Wauwatosa: It ranks as the most desirable retail market in the metropolitan Milwaukee area, and maybe the most desirable in the entire state.
Now, thanks to the long-range planning of Chicago-based developer HSA Commercial, retailers will soon have one more option when it comes to doing business here.
HSA Commercial began construction earlier this month on the first phase of The Mayfair Collection, a mixed-use development located in the heart of Wauwatosa. The development is an unusual one; construction crews will transform functionally obsolete warehouse buildings into retail centers.
So far, interest in the project has been high. Such top-tier retailers as Nordstrom Rack and Dick’s Sporting Goods have already signed leases for the first phase, a portion of the development scheduled to open in the summer months of 2014.
For Tim Blum, executive vice president of the retail division of HSA Commercial, this is not surprising.
“From a demand point of view, Wauwatosa is typically the first market that most merchants target when they identify this larger trade area as a place in which they want to do business,” Blum said.
The Mayfair Collection provides a new opportunity for retailers hoping to break into this market. As Blum said, it’s not easy to set up shop here, mostly because the community has largely been built out. This leaves precious little space for big-box or even junior-box retailers.
HSA Commercial began collecting parcels of land for this project in 2005. It took the company the better part of three years to gradually collect 62 acres, a process that took place mostly through five- to 10-acre acquisitions. The last parcel, though, was a big one, 30 acres that was home to a now obsolete distribution center for the Roundy’s supermarket chain.
Once HSA had this land, it began crafting a master plan for how to use it. Then, of course, 2008 came and the commercial real estate market collapsed.
“All those plans we had spent time on developing went out the window,” Blum said.
But HSA persevered. The plans for The Mayfair Collection evolved, and the company focused on re-purposing the area’s existing warehouse buildings in an effort to attract top-tier retailers. This plan also had the added benefit of allowing HSA to attract non-retail tenants, too, with an office and residential component.
“We have a pretty good recipe for success with this development,” Blum said. “We have a market that is already at critical mass with like-minded merchants. The merchants locating here will be able to gain access to a great location at rents that are below those of new-construction buildings. This is a formula that should allow merchants moving here to do very well.”
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