Boston Store will remain as the west-end anchor of the Shops of Grand Avenue after it agreed this week to four-year lease extension, contingent on city support.
That's good news for the downtown mall, which has been struggling for years with declining foot traffic, lost tenants, and empty storefronts.
Department stores have also faced challenges, so the future of the Boston Store, owned by parent company Bon-Ton, has long been in question.
“Milwaukee is one of the few cities, especially of its size, to have a major department store downtown,” says Milwaukee Business Journal reporter Stacy Vogel Davis. “Most cities have lost their downtown department stores.”
Fellow reporter Sean Ryan has reported that the store is signing on to remain in its location until 2018, under the agreement with city development leaders for $1.2 million in incentives. This money, financed through a city tax incremental financing (TIF)district, would be put towards repairs, equipment advertising and store promotion.
Vogel Davis says the city is especially interested in this deal because the store provides jobs for 750 employees. Bon Ton’s headquarters is located directly above the Grand Avenue Boston Store, and the agreement would secure jobs for the next four years.
If the city does not commit to the proposed deal, the store will continue with its typical yearly contract, usually renewed every January. A decision will be made by April; Ryan reports the city financing plan will now go to the Milwaukee Common Council.
The proposed deal may keep Boston Store in its current location, but other changes are coming to The Shops of Grand Avenue.
Plans are being considered to change the mall from a traditional indoor mall into one that hosts a variety of uses. Outside entrances to each store are also part of a redesign for the mall space.
The future of a surface parking lot across the street from the mall's west end also remains an open question. For years, plans for this piece of downtown property included building a hotel, but continuous efforts have so far failed.
Reporter Sean Ryan reports that the two-acres of land may soon be turned into restaurants and other civic services to offer attendees at the Wisconsin Center.