Mayor pitching alternative ideas to Walmart's proposed downtown Supercenter

Green Bay Mayor Jim Schmitt pitches alternative ideas for the vacant downtown Larsen-Green site in a June 12, 2014 news conference. Walmart wants to build a 154,000 sq. ft. supercenter. (WLUK/Bill Miston)

GREEN BAY – Green Bay's mayor is pitching some alternative options to a proposed big box store in the city's downtown. One such idea includes a baseball stadium.

This comes as the city council is expected to take up a request from the big box discount retailer Walmart. It wants the city to re-zone the 15 acre property in the city's Broadway District, known as Larsen Green, in order to build a 154,000 sq. ft., one-story store with more than 600 parking spaces.

Last week, the plan commission voted three-to-two, denying Walmart's request.

Mayor Jim Schmitt says the three ideas – which focus either on residential use, mixed-use (office space and living options), or a sports entertainment district – are interchangeable and better for future use for the vacant piece of land.

Schmitt believes Walmart's proposed plan is wrong for downtown.

"I think a couple things are critical to make an urban environment sustainable,” said Schmitt at a press conference at city hall Thursday, “One being residential living."

All three possible plans include residential options and a grocery store.

"We're interested in this property," said Schmitt.

The Broadway District's non-profit business improvement arm, On Broadway Incorporated, owns the Larsen Green property. Schmitt says if the city owned it, time would have fared far better for the site.

On Broadway bought the property in 2007. The city guaranteed a portion of the loan. FOX 11's calls to the Larsen Green property's governing board spokesman went unreturned.

Just a couple of city council members were present at the mayor’s press conference, one of them being council President Tom DeWane.

"To say it wasn't marketed right, you know, some mistakes probably were made, but we did have people in there, very intelligent people," said DeWane.

DeWane says the mayors claim that On Broadway didn't do a good job of marketing the site to potential developers is misleading. City staff and council members sit on the property's governing board.

"Mayors' options - if you look at them and we get them done, it's a lot of it is what people are asking for,” said DeWane of the mayor’s presentation Thursday, “but I like the Walmart proposal, a lot."

Walmart is not commenting on the mayor's ideas.

Schmitt says Walmart's shovel-ready proposal is filled with short-term gains, and long-term implications. Even though the ideas presented Thursday are just that – ideas.

"This is realistic, this is doable and this is something that the city would support and get behind, like we've done with many other properties in the downtown.”

Schmitt says it could take at least three years and $3 million in city tax dollars to get the ideas up and running.

Walmart's re-zoning request is expected to be taken up by the city council next Tuesday – but not the full council.

Schmitt says Alderman Joe Moore is excusing himself because of a conflict of interest. Alderman Tom Sladek is also out – he's recovering from a severe stroke.

DeWane believes the vote will come down to a tie, being broken by the mayor. The mayor said Thursday, if a tie happened, he would deny Walmart's re-zoning request.