On August 12, 1999, newsflash reported that the Racine County Board of Supervisors had rejected a Home Depot rezoning request, but as one town official said, Home Depot is still out there “kicking tires” to try and get into the local market. A report in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in early November says that a large real estate investment trust called Kimco Realty, may become Home Depot’s ticket into town. Kimco, based in New Hyde Park, NY, has purchased the “leasehold interests” in 29 stores that once belonged to the Hechinger’s Company, one of the nation’s largest home improvemenet chains that went out of business earlier this year. Kimco did not buy the buildings, only the leases, which include 4 dead Builder’s Square stores. Hechinger’s had owned Builder’s Squares, and Hechinger’s exited the market in part because of dominance by Home Depot. So now Home Depot is looking to move into the stores of the company it helped put under. Kimco has stated that it plans to lease the former Builder’s Square store on E.Capitol Drive to Wal-Mart, and another dead Builder’s Square building on S. Green Bay Road in Racine to Home Depot. The Home Depot site in Racine, by the way, is owned by St.Paul’s the Apostle church. The Home Depot rejection cost the church $5 million in revenue, and stalled the building of a new church. The pastor of St.Paul’s called Home Depot’s rejection “maybe a test from the Lord”, and complained that the community was “demonizing and humiliating” Home Depot. Maybe it works the other way around, Reverend.
The plan to move Wal-Mart into Milwaukee’s E. Capitol Drive location has generated some opposition already. One zoning commission member in Milwaukee told reporters that the former Builder’s Square store could be used for light manufacturing instead of retail purposes. The property Wal-Mart wants is apparently industrially zoned, and the company would need city approval to rezone the land. As for the Racine Home Depot site, the company has said that it is scouting out several possible locations in the area, including the Builder’s Square building. The Builder’s Square site is about one mile away from the location that Home Depot lost in August. A newspaper telephone poll which was conducted last summer asked Racine residents if they wanted a Home Depot in town. The results? Yes, 551, NO, 1,006. Home Depot walked off with an underwhelming 35% of the vote.