The name most bandied about since spring 2011 as an anchor tenant for the planned redevelopment of the Burleigh Triangle has finally, formally signed on.
Nordstrom Rack announced Wednesday it has signed a lease with presumed developer HSA Commercial Real Estate for a 36,000-square-foot store in The Mayfair Collection retail center, proposed for the Triangle.
Those leases, though, indeed the development itself, are contingent on HSA receiving funding assistance from the city through the creation of a tax-incremental financing district, Blum said.
The Mayfair Collection is a projected $45 million undertaking, and it is only the first phase of HSA's plans for redeveloping the whole 71-acre Triangle tract.
No TIF yet, but feeling 'comfortable' going forward
In an interview earlier this year, Blum told Wauwatosa Patch that TIF support was “part and parcel of the process” and that the retail development “won't happen” without TIF support.
At that time, Blum said HSA was already poised to sign lease agreements with up to five tenants, but the lease agreements would not be inked without a TIF agreement in place.
Asked what had changed to persuade the principals to sign now – the TIF has not yet been created, even after two six-month extensions since HSA received preliminary plan approval for the site – Blum said, "Nothing has changed."
"Just because we've signed leases doesn't mean any of that has changed. Until our financing and entitlements are in place, the project doesn't go forward.
"We feel comfortable, though, that negotiations are progressing at a pace that will have us getting under way in the spring."
Blum noted that Nordstrom and Dick's had been named from the first, a year and a half ago, as likely tenants.
"It takes a long time to get a lease signed, doesn't it?" he said.
City has moved cautiously on agreement
Ald. Craig Wilson, chairman of the Budget and Finance Committee, which would consider and forward to the Common Council any TIF agreement, said that on the city's side, "We've got, in principal, an outline that I think is going to work for both parties."
"I think that these leases are a sign that HSA must feel confident that we're getting to where we need to be. But I'm sure those leases include contingencies – that they aren't in force without us reaching an agreement.
"So, I'm enthusiastic, but I can't jump up and down. We're not quite there yet."
Besides chairing the key committee, Wilson represents the 8th District, home to the long-blighted Burleigh Triangle. It's in his interest to see the area redeveloped, but even so he is moved to caution.
"In the history of the city with TIFs, we've had good success, especially with the big ones. The Research Park TIF has been a great success, so much so that we're going to be retiring it early.
"But culturally, we're not going to go on past success as a measure of what works. We don't want to create a TIF and have it fail miserably. Even a 60-40 chance is not good enough. It needs to be a sure thing.
"So, that's kind of slowed it down, but I think that's a good thing. Staff has been very careful. This is the first one that's primarily retail. To me, there's not much risk in that. But because there are public funds at stake, you have to be cautious.
"Some people are calling this a "retail TIF," and I think more emphasis ought to be put on the quality of the plan. But we don't want to start a pattern where everybody who wants to put a store on Mayfair expects to get a TIF."
Wilson pointed to the stalled The Corners development in the Town of Brookfield and the Radisson Hotel fiasco in Menomonee Falls – the village had to foreclose and take ownership of the failed hotel after lending $17.65 million for the project – as risks to be avoided at all costs.
"Wauwatosa," Wilson said, "is sophisticated enough to do things right."
Get your groceries in Wauwatosa
As a sidebar, Wauwatosa Patch asked Timothy Blum of HSA about earlier stated plans to include a grocery outlet in The Mayfair Collection – now that Meijer Inc. has proposed a 157,000-square-foot supercenter across the street that would be at least 60 percent groceries.
"We still have plans for a grocery in our development," Blum said, "but it will be compatible with Meijer. It will be of a completely different scale and concept and a different draw than Meijer."