Kmart’s plunge into bankruptcy has not enhanced its image in the central city of Milwaukee, where some residents say Kmart is definitely not OK for the community. The President of a local community development corporation told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel last week that a proposed 156,000 s.f. Super Kmart would bring “negative impacts on current businesses.” Damon Dorsey, head of the North Avenue Community Development Corporation, cited a study by the National Main Street Center (National Trust for Historic Preservation) of the Fond du Lac and North avenue area, which concluded that large discount superstores leave 6?? on the dollar behind in the local community, while independent businesses leave ten times that amount, or 60?? on the dollar. Dorsey points out that a suburban single story building in an urban environment is a bad mix. “When you bring a Super Kmart with a big parking lot, you basically shred what you have.” The developers insist that Kmart is a retail magnet, but some could argue today that all Kmart has attracted is debt and plummeting stock prices. Meanwhile the city of Milwaukee seems entranced by the Blue Light, and is lighting the way for the project to the tune of $2.75 million to purchase the land, clean up any environmental concerns with the parcel, and even relocating existing businesses. So the city is using tax dollars — some of which were paid by competitors to Kmart — to sweeten the deal for a giant retailer that had $37 billion in sales in 2000. The city will pay itself back for this corporate welfare through the property taxes generated by Kmart. Dorsey also worries that with all the Kmart stores projected to close — some analysts say as many as 500 stores will go — that eventually Milwaukee will be left holding a large, empty store. “I don’t think the city could afford to take that hit right now.” Dorsey told sprawl-busters that apparently Kmart has worked out a deal where they will only pay $5.80 per sq. ft. for their building. The developers, the Endeavour Company, are looking for the City to put up to $5 million dollars in inducements to make the project work. Endeavour wants to get the City of Milwaukee to increase the Tax Incremental Financing District amount from $2.75 million to $ 5 million — but there is a great deal of resistance from local businesses and residents. Residents are working to oppose the growing corporate welfare deal, and urging the city to re-evaluate Kmart in light of its serious financial problems.
For more information on the Milwaukee battle with the Blue Light, contact [email protected] Search by “Milwaukee” for other sprawl stories from this city.