GREEN BAY – Green Bay city leaders expect a vote this week that could potentially put permanent brakes on Walmart’s current vision for a big box store in the downtown.
It’s a hot-button issue for many in the Broadway District: whether to build a roughly 150,000 square foot, single-story Walmart store on an old industrial site – now known as Larsen Green.
Right now, the land Walmart wants to build on is for “general industry” development. Walmart wants to change it to “commercial.”
But the plan commission shot that down, opting for a “downtown” designation – which calls for mixed use development. That goes before the city council Tuesday.
“It should have been changed from industrial years ago,” said Alderman and Council President Tom DeWane.
DeWane says a “downtown” designation leaves the development door open – even for Walmart, which isn’t asking for tax dollars under the current proposal.
“It’s going to be easy,” said DeWane, “As a council, even if it stays downtown and Walmart comes with something that we all can agree upon, we can make changes.”
“Instead of fighting, back and forth, we need to take a look at this and see what’s best for the city.”
But Walmart has been set against changing the project size.
We wanted to talk to Walmart officials about the pending vote. A spokeswoman said that would be premature and instead emailed a statement saying:
“We believe Walmart can be part of the vision for revitalizing downtown Green Bay and look forward to continuing to work with the City Council to determine how we can be part of the solution by bringing jobs to the area, redeveloping a 22-acre brownfield, and helping generate TIF revenue for additional development projects.”
“I think it’s important for this community to move on,” said Green Bay Mayor Jim Schmitt
Schmitt says there’s no denying the immediate, short term benefits of jobs and tax revenue realized by Walmart’s current proposal. But “I think, long-term, you really want to have a urban center that is more mixed use, that offers more culture, more amenities than a big box,” Schmitt said.
“The comprehensive master plan calls for downtown mixed use,” said Rhonda Sitnikau, who is with the local business advocacy group “B Local.”
Sitnikau says Walmart’s continued opposition to downsizing its store to fit with the Broadway District is troublesome.
“The reality is, is that they actually have a design that would work very well and jive and be very harmonious with the Broadway District,” said Sitnikau of Walmart’s smaller Neighborhood Market stores.
On Broadway, Incorporated owns the property and has a $3 million bond payment coming due to the city this summer. Its executive director Chris Naumann declined to talk to FOX 11 on camera. But says its board of directors hopes to release some more information to the public Tuesday night.
A public hearing on the land use will be held at the council meeting Tuesday night.
If approved, Walmart could alter its plan or seek to have the property rezoned to try and make the store a reality.