Milwaukee's Midtown Center Shopping Area to Get Major Expansion

Owner adding 100,000 square feet of stores


May 17--A company that owns retail properties throughout the country is expanding the Midtown Center shopping center on the northwest side of Milwaukee and wants to develop more properties in the city.

Inland Western Retail Real Estate Trust Inc. announced Tuesday that it will add 100,000 square feet of stores, including an Office Depot, to Midtown, 5700 W. Capitol Drive.

That $11 million project will expand Midtown around 30%, said Niall Byrne, vice president of property management at Inland US Management LLC, an affiliate of Inland Western.

The work has started and is expected to be done by 2007, Byrne said.

Mayor Tom Barrett said that many of the new jobs coming to Midtown, which was developed on the site of the former Capitol Court mall, will go to central-city residents.

"Investing in this type of project . . . is the preferred recipe for long-term success," Barrett said at a groundbreaking ceremony.

The expansion marks the first development project for Inland Western, which has acquired shopping centers that other investors developed.

Inland Western of Oak Brook, Ill., wants to do more development in the Milwaukee area, including more projects in the central city, said Jennifer Hopkins, leasing director at Inland US Management.

Hopkins said Inland Western is working with Northwest Side Community Development Corp., a non-profit agency, to identify other opportunities.

The expansion of Midtown, which has around 319,000 square feet, is being financed in part by a $600,000 loan that Northwest Side made last fall to Inland Western.

The 25,000-square-foot first phase of the expansion, including Anna's Linens and Barefeet Shoes, will be completed by November, Byrne said. That phase is just west of the A.J. Wright store.

Work on the 75,000-square-foot second phase, including the 20,000-square-foot Office Depot, will likely begin a year from now, he said. That phase is at the eastern end of Midtown, just west of N. 54th St.

Retail jobs usually pay less than manufacturing jobs, which have long supported many inner-city families.

A report that Marc Levine, a University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee history professor, issued this week says the decline of local manufacturing jobs is a big factor behind the inner city's poor economic conditions.

But Howard Snyder, Northwest Side executive director, said inner-city retail is a growing industry that provides entry-level jobs.

Ald. Joe Davis, whose district includes Midtown, said at the groundbreaking ceremony that the shopping center is a catalyst for development in the area.

Along with jobs, Midtown is bringing a sense of pride to the area, Davis said.

Milwaukee development company Boulder Venture Inc., which opened Midtown in 2002, attracted such tenants as Wal-Mart and Pick 'n Save.

Also, Boulder Venture sold land at Midtown for development of a Lowe's store.

Boulder Venture last year sold Midtown to Inland Western for $53 million.

Midtown received $7.25 million in city funds for new streets and other site improvements. Midtown property taxes are repaying that money, which is scheduled to be paid off by 2012.

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