There are 13 Wal-Marts within twenty miles of Muskego, Wisconsin. Three of them are supercenters. A resident in Muskego can drive to a supercenter in Mukwonago less than 10 miles away. A superstore project is on hold in Waukesha, just 8 miles away. There’s a Wal-Mart discount store in New Berlin only 5 miles away. The community of Muskego is thus saturated with options for cheap, Chinese imports. But news this week reached the 22,800 residents of Muskego that Wal-Mart wants to build a supercenter in their city. The 152,000 s.f. superstore would be located near South Moorland Road and West College Avenue. The giant retailer currently has 56 supercenters in Wisconsin, 26 discount stores, and 12 Sam’s clubs. Ten years ago in Wisconsin, Wal-Mart had only 1 supercenter, and 55 discount stores. The number of discount stores in Wisconsin has dropped to 47% of the number of units Wal-Mart had in 1998. Wal-Mart will continue to systematically shut down or expand its discount stores into supercenters. If a superstore in Muskego is built, it hastens the day when nearby Wal-Mart discount stores in places like New Berlin, Greenfield and Franklin will close, or expand. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, places like Franklin are already slated for a supercenter. If the Waukesha supercenter is ever built, it will be roughly 9 miles from Muskego. Sprawl-Busters received an email from an anxious resident of Muskego who just learned that her community had been targeted for a Wal-Mart: “On April 27th I received a memo from my Alderman that Muskego had just received a formal proposal for a Wal-Mart store on Moorland Road. There is a Wal-Mart sponsored meeting on May 1st and I was surprised this was the first I heard about the real possibility of a Wal-Mart in my area. I know that after Franklin, Wisconsin successfully booted the store they looked at Muskego & Oak Creek. While I am willing to hear their proposal; personally I do not think the Wal-Mart corporate culture represents what I believe Muskego should stand for.” She’ll get her chance to state that opinion in room 243 of the Muskego High School this week.
These dog-and-pony shows that Wal-Mart puts on for local residents are now standard fare for Wal-Mart. They usually offer some Wal-Mart coffee and cookies, some architect’s renderings of the store, and a chance for the public to talk to a real traffic engineer. There will also be a table for the public to sign up if they want to be notified of meetings about the project. But at many of these events, the opponents show up in greater numbers than the proponents. The Muskego Wal-Mart superstore proposal will go before the city’s Plan Commission for an ‘initial review’ on May 6th. The city of Muskego boasts that it “takes great pride in its ability to provide a quality environment in which industrial, commercial, residential and recreational uses can successfully coexist in an attractive setting.” The city notes is has a “strategic proximity” to major metropolitan centers such as Milwaukee and Chicago. But Wal-Mart is not interested in Muskego’s proximity to anyone else. A Wal-Mart supercenter brings no added value to the local trade area. What Wal-Mart sells is already being sold at other cash registers, including the 13 Wal-Mart stores within a short drive of Muskego. The major impact of this proposed facility will be on existing Musekego grocery stores. Most of the sales of this new supercenter would come from its “competing” Wal-Mart discount store nearby, and from grocery stores now in Musekego — one of two of which could easily close if this project is approved. The net job gain to Muskego will be negligible, since most of this activity is economic displacement, not economic development. Readers are urged to contact Muskego Mayor John R. Johnson (that’s right: John Johnson from Wisconsin). Muskego’s current Mayor was first elected in November, 2006 after the former Mayor was recalled. Johnson is a retired Muskego Police Chief. Johnson, 61, told voters he supports development so that residents bear less of the local tax burden. The city has been working for 8 years to develop a commercial property known as the Parkland Mall in the heart of its downtown, trying to create a mixed-use project that would be “a catalyst for the formation of a distinct, unique downtown for Muskego,” according to the Mayor. In January, 2008, the Mayor’s Task Force on Economic Development recommended a major focus on ways to make their downtown a destination, to attract anchor businesses downtown, and to develop a downtown marketing plan. Readers are urged to email Mayor Johnson at: [email protected] with the following message: “Mayor Johnson, Muskego is currently surrounded by 13 Wal-Marts within 20 miles. Muskego does not need more suburban style sprawl — especially as you continue your efforts to infill your downtown and the revitalize the Parkland Mall. Putting a huge superstore on the edge of the city makes no sense alongside the recommendations from your Task Force on Economic Development, which seeks to keep existing merchants from leaving the city. If you want a unique downtown as a destination, you don’t approve a superstore the size of three football fields on South Moorland. You already have ‘been there, done that’ with Wal-Marts in your trade area. There are 85 Wal-Marts in Wisconsin today — but only one Muskego. Build your downtown, but not by forcing it to compete with a Wal-Mart.”