A proposed $100 million retail and office complex anchored by a Von Maur store took another step toward construction Wednesday as the Town Board approved conceptual site plans.
"This project perfectly fits with the vision we had," Town Supervisor John Schatzman said.
Supervisor Mike Maxwell expressed concern the plans filed by the Marcus Corp. do not include construction of a road bridge over Poplar Creek, which lies immediately east of the project.
The town wants a road connection created east to Janacek Road to give another access not only to the Poplar Creek project, but to other future residential and manufacturing development between the creek and Janacek.
Marcus originally had a road in the plans, but removed it after calculating the costs, said Gary Lake, town building and zoning administrator.
Maxwell and Henderson said approving the conceptual plan does not preclude the town from requiring a road connection before final approval.
Town staff plans to meet next week with property owners to the east whose lands could be involved in a road connection, Town Attorney Jim Hammes said.
Marcus officials, who did not attend Tuesday's meeting, have met with the state departments of Transportation and Natural Resources, as well as Waukesha County, Lake said.
The conceptual approval includes preliminary endorsement of proposed traffic ingress and egress and land use. Greater scrutiny of traffic will occur in future stages of the approval process.
The board also approved a contract to pay Ehlers & Associates an estimated $15,000 to prepare a tax incremental financing district plan to fund road, sewer and water work to accommodate the new commercial center.
Ehlers prepared a TIF plan the town created for environmental remediation at the former Beatrice Cheese plant that Marcus Corp. razed in 2007 to build the Majestic Cinema at 770 N. Springdale Rd.
Under state law, towns are only allowed to use TIF funds for environmental remediation, not redevelopment.
However, state lawmakers representing the town created a bill to give the town power to create a redevelopment TIF for the Von Maur / Poplar Creek project. Gov. Scott Walker signed the bill into law March 24.
Under a TIF, increased property taxes generated by new construction are used to pay for public improvements for the project. Increased tax revenue from new development is not shared with all taxing units — such as the school districts, town, county and technical colleges — until the cost of public improvements are paid.
The total costs of work planned in the TIF is yet unknown, but a planned $1.2 million water tower likely will not be in the TIF, Town Administrator Rick Czopp said in a recent interview.
The water tower likely will be funded by special assessments, Czopp said.
The TIF might include extending Jennifer Drive north and west to Barker Road around the Bluemound Elite Fitness & Racquet Club.
Conceptual site plans for the Poplar Creek project call for a pedestrian-friendly town square to be developed next to a Von Maur store, buttressed by two restaurants, a grocer, retail and office development.
A total of 614,000 square feet would be built on 19 acres north of I-94 and east of Barker Road. The closed Menards and West Point Cinemas and half-shuttered West Point Plaza strip mall with Applebees would be razed to make way for the new complex.
A massive underground parking structure would be built under the various retail and office buildings, using the 25-foot grade difference between Marcus Drive and the Menards parking lot.
Because of the 25-foot height, the parking structure would be "really high, open, airy, not the typical claustrophobic" deck with low ceilings, Lake said.
One or two floors of retail and office space would be built above the parking. The Von Maur store would be three levels and 150,000 square feet.
Marcus next will need to get preliminary and final approvals from the town that will better plan traffic circulation, storm water runoff and other details.
In related news, a broker said Von Maur won't threaten Brookfield Square mall because different shoppers will be targeted and the store prefers the town's high-profile site at I-94 and Barker Road, according to a story from JSOnline's business reporter Tom Daykin, who attended the International Council of Shopping Centers' Wisconsin Idea Exchange in Milwaukee Thursday.