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Brown Deer looking for developers to take on Lowe's site

The facade of the vacant Lowe's building looks out over an empty lot.

The facade of the vacant Lowe's building looks out over an empty lot. Photo By Michael Meidenbauer

Feb. 27, 2013

Brown Deer - Village officials continue to brainstorm and court developers with the intent of gaining an occupant in the still-vacant Lowe's building.

The Lowe's building sits on an 11 acre site on the 6300 block of Brown Deer Road, with 118,000 square feet of high-ceilinged floor space, a 30,000 square foot garden center, and approximately 500 parking spots. The Brown Deer location was one of 20 stores closed nationwide in Oct. 2011, and has remained empty since.

Accompanying the development's imposing presence on Brown Deer Road is a large presence in the village's and Lowe's balance sheets. The village invested $2.4 million in the site in 2006 through one of its tax incremental financing districts. The development agreement struck between Lowe's and the village guaranteed the value of the property at $15 million upon completion of the project, with a provision that the value increase by at least 1.75 percent annually.

Lowe's continues to pay taxes on the property's current value of about $15.5 million, said Zoning and Planning Specialist Nate Piotrowski, allowing the village to continue paying down the debt from its contribution to the site. Tax records show Lowe's paid approximately $484,000 to the village for the 2012 tax year. However, according to Piotrowski and Ryan Holzhauer, the real estate broker handling the property on behalf of Lowe's, the current market rate on the building is somewhere in the neighborhood of $4-5 million.

That substantially lessened value, said Piotrowski, wouldn't generate enough in property taxes to pay TIF debt and finance other improvements in the district, as the village would like. The answer, he said, will be to incorporate the outstanding TIF debt into a three-way agreement between the village, Lowe's, and any potential developer of the site.

"In a way that would cover everyone's needs," said Piotrowski.

To do that, the village is considering a number of uses of the site, including big box retailers like a Lowe's, or potentially industrial or manufacturing uses, any of which the building's cavernous empty space could easily accommodate.

"It's run the gamut," said Holzhauer of businesses which have inquired about the site. "It's a big open building with high ceilings, which could allow for a lot of uses."

The site is currently zoned commercial, though the village could  rezone if necessary.

"There's precedent for manufacturing around the (Brown Deer Road) corridor," said Piotrowski. "We're looking at various ways big boxes have been repurposed."

Should any developers come forward and solidify a proposal, added Piotrowski, the first step in the approval process would be to come before the Planning Commission.

Reporter’s note: The village held a community input session on the Lowe’s site Wednesday evening, after press time. The March 7 issue of North Shore NOW will include a report on the event.

BY THE NUMBERS

$2.4 million

The village's 2006 investment in the Lowe's site on Brown Deer Road

$15.5 million

Current value of Lowe's property, held up by the guaranteed value provision in 2006 development agreement

$4-5 million

Estimated market value of site

$484,000

Approximate tax revenue generated at current property value, from 2012 tax year records

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