Though a spring groundbreaking of The Corners / Von Maur project appears unlikely, Town of Brookfield and Marcus Corp. officials say they are making progress on finalizing development and tax financing district agreements.
The boundaries of the proposed tax incremental financing (TIF) district, however, remain unresolved, with differing views on whether lands outside of The Corners project should be included or not. Tax base growth on all lands included will fund public improvements to facilitate the redevelopment, such as new roads, sewer and water lines, and an underground parking structure.
The Town Board met in closed session Tuesday night with two key representatives of the ambitious open-air, retail-office complex proposed on 19 acres east of Barker Road between I-94 and Bluemound Road.
No action was taken. Katie Falvey, Marcus' director of real estate, and Bruce Westling, of MLG Commercial, showed town supervisors a 3-D model of the redevelopment project being designed by Development Design Group Inc. of Baltimore, MD, which also designed Bayshore Town Center in Glendale.
The Corners would raze the former Marcus Corp. West Pointe Cinemas and Menards, as well as a strip mall and Applebee's. New construction would include a 140,000-square-foot, two-story Von Maur department store (the state's first), as well as an estimated 230,000 square feet of retail, 50,000 square feet of office and possible 150,000 square feet of residential. There also would be a large underground parking structure and green town square.
Falvey, Westling and Town Administrator Rick Czopp said they were upbeat about the upscale project and its leasing.
"It's going very well," Falvey told Patch before the meeting. "We're on pace with what we want to be. Von Maur is a done deal, locked in. We have 75 percent of the remaining retail space in negotiation with specific tenants."
Falvey would not say how many tenants have committed to the project or identify any retailers or restaurants.
Czopp said, "We're still confident. We're partners on this deal."
Which lands would be included?
But Falvey and Czopp had differing views on whether a tax incremental financing district would include lands other than those proposed for The Corners. Falvey said her understanding was additional town lands surrounding The Corners would be part of the public-private improvements package.
Czopp said he preferred to limit the tax district lands to only the 19 acres so that additional tax base growth on other town land, such as industrial areas to the east, is not initially diverted from town coffers.
"That doesn't mean we can't include those areas at any point in time in the future," Czopp said. "But as it stands right now, in my mind, it's not (included)."
Any tax revenue growth on lands included in the tax district — from fair market appreciation and new improvements and construction — would be diverted from the tax rolls of the town, county, technical college and school district in order to pay for public improvements inside the district such as new roads, sewer and water lines, and the parking structure.
Once the improvements would be paid off, additional tax revenue would be shared with all taxing entities. Czopp had said last month the project could be assisted by a tax district of about $25 to $30 million.
Czopp said town officials remain cautious about borrowing for public improvements, wanting to make sure the district's growth will pay for that work.
"We're pretty much debt-free," he said. "We don't need to be taking on any risk. We'd like to have zero risk. So we're just being careful and Marcus is also."
Holiday-timed opening expected
Falvey and Czopp said the project will be built at once, completed in 18 to 20 months. Since Von Maur only opens new stores in October or November in time for the holiday shopping season, if construction is not started this spring, it likely will be delayed a full year, she said, repeating what Marcus Corp. CEO Greg Marcus told shareholders in a December conference call.
A holiday-timed opening also is popular with other prospective tenants, Falvey and Westling said.