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Walmart zones in on new Supercenter site in New Berlin

Dec. 14, 2012

New Berlin - The city has scheduled a Jan. 7 public hearing on the rezoning request tied to the recently announced plan for a new Walmart store near Greenfield Avenue and Moorland Road.

If approved by the city, the nearly 150,000-square-foot "Supercenter" - a combination general merchandise store and supermarket - would be built at 15205-15375 W. Greenfield Ave. on New Berlin's northern border with Brookfield. The existing 108,000-square-foot Walmart at 15333 W. National Ave., in the New Berlin City Center area, would close, according to a plan of operations filed with the city.

The proposed 16-acre site is mostly woodland about a block east of Moorland Road.

Re-using the land

Most of those wooded acres are zoned for single-family homes, although the Charcoal Grill restaurant on the site is zoned business. The eatery would be razed, as would a home set farther back from Greenfield Avenue.

The Jan. 7 hearing, which will begin at 6 p.m., before the Plan Commission will first focus on whether to change the city's future land-use map to accommodate business. That document must be changed before the zoning itself could be altered.

The land-use map currently envisions single-family homes and some multi-family residential elements for all but the Charcoal Grill site. (However, the land-use plan doesn't match up exactly with current zoning, which doesn't include multi-family, according to city officials.)

Walmart is asking to change to suburban commercial - the same designation as the neighboring large vacant tract of land that goes all the way to Moorland Road along Greenfield Avenue.

Planning a new store

If the rezoning is ultimately approved, Walmart will submit a refined site plan that may be slightly different than the plan now on file with the city, said Greg Kessler, director of community development.

At the very least, that plan would need a parking waiver because it's 117 spaces short of the required number of spaces of 740 spaces.

Walmart also would like to be open round-the-clock. Kessler said that is the first 24-hour request in memory.

The plan also calls for a traffic light at one of the two store entrances proposed on Greenfield Avenue. State officials will have to decide on that issue, given that Greenfield is a state road, Kessler said, but he doubted there would be a problem.

As for local officials position on the proposal, it is still too early to tell, though they are reasons it will find support.

"The city would like it. It would bring in a lot of tax base," said Alderman John Hopkins, whose district includes the area.

But a lot of questions have to be answered first, Hopkins emphasized.

Stormwater among concerns

For one, the city will have to make certain that stormwater issues are addressed, he said.

Walmart officials are aware of the need to adequately deal with storm water. They have promised in the documents on file to grade the site to make sure it doesn't cause flooding for neighbors. Although the site is just west of an area that has suffered repeated flooding Walmart would not make that any worse, Hopkins said.

"Walmart water would flow west, not east," Hopkins said. The area that suffers flooding is south of Greenfield Avenue.

The city will also need to do a traffic study, he noted. However, because there won't be an entrance on Moorland Road, residents to the west are not as concerned as originally, he said.

What of the old store?

Walmart leases the space at its current store, also located just off Moorland Road, but further south along National Avenue in what is known as the City Center neighborhood.

To those concerned about an empty big-box store in the City Center, Kessler said Walmart has promised to help the building owner find tenants, and the city will maintain a dialog with brokers about prospective uses. That's the only role the city can play, he added.

But he was hopeful, because the current store is smaller than today's much larger box stores and could attract a smaller tenant, he said.

Employees of the current store would be offered jobs at the proposed new Walmart and 50 to 100 new employees would be hired, according to documents submitted to the city.

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