Aug. 17--Prospects have brightened for a huge, new shopping center proposed for the Pabst Farms development, with an Oconomowoc Common Council vote this week helping clear the way for the project.
And that increases the odds against a competing large shopping center proposed just four miles east in Delafield, according to real estate industry observers.
"It's unlikely both will be built," said Mark Eppli, a Marquette University finance professor, about the separate proposals from General Growth Properties Inc., at Pabst Farms, and Robert Lang, in Delafield.
The key, Eppli said, is which development can more quickly secure enough anchor tenants to gain financing.
Chicago-based General Growth got a big boost with Tuesday's Common Council action. The council approved a settlement agreement that allows Aurora Health Care to build its long-sought hospital at the southeast corner of I-94 and state Highway 67, within Pabst Farms.
That frees up another Pabst Farms parcel, which Aurora had once targeted, for General Growth's project. General Growth in June announced plans to build an open-air shopping center, including national department stores, upscale shops, a multi-screen theater and restaurants, at the northeast corner of I-94 and state Highway 67.
That site is already zoned for retail use, and Oconomowoc Mayor Maury Sullivan and other city officials say they welcome the development.
Meanwhile, Lang and his partner, Indianapolis-based Lauth Property Group, need a rezoning for their site, at the southeast corner of I-94 and Highway C.
The Lang / Lauth proposal, for offices, upscale housing and an open-air shopping center, has drawn opposition from local residents who have organized a group, Conserving a Rural Environment for Lake Country. Group members say the project would change Delafield's rural atmosphere.
"I think that's a significant impediment," said Eppli, who is the Robert B. Bell Sr. chair in real estate studies at Marquette. Eppli's position was endowed by the family of Peter Bell, who is the developer of Pabst Farms.
The 87-acre Delafield complex would include upscale stores, restaurants, offices, residential units, a 150-room hotel, a performing arts theater and a comedy club. The plan calls for 870,750 square feet of retail; 181,000 square feet of offices, including one office building of 99,000 square feet; and 385 residential units.
General Growth's project, called Pabst Farms Town Centre, would be about 1 million square feet. It is part of the overall Pabst Farms development, a 1,500-acre project that includes homes, a business park and a neighborhood shopping center.
Pabst Farms Town Centre would be on 120 acres, including 43.5 acres that had been set aside for Aurora.
With that land now available for General Growth, the company has taken "a big step closer" to building the shopping center, said Jim Graham, a General Growth spokesman. That will help recruit prospective tenants to the project, he said.
Meanwhile, Lauth Property Group and the City of Delafield are continuing their studies on traffic, economic feasibility and the economic impact of the project proposed by Lauth and Lang. Lauth needs to submit its studies by the end of August in order to be ready for a Delafield Plan Commission meeting in September.
Assuming the Lang project wins approval from the city, retail experts say Lauth will have a tough time competing against the much-larger General Growth, one of the country's largest shopping mall operators.
David Treier, spokesman for Lauth, acknowledged those concerns.
"I think we might not be looking for the same retailers," Treier said. He said General Growth is looking for large anchor tenants, while Lauth is seeking smaller retailers.
"It's of equal appeal to the right tenants," Treier said of the Lang project.
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