Weston village leaders have done some math, and don’t like how the numbers add up. According to data released in February 2015, the southeast metropolitan area as a whole is losing as much as $725 million per year in retail dollars to places such as the Fox Valley.
Weston hopes to stem that tide with an ambitious new development plan, says Village Administrator Daniel Guild.
The proposed Camp Phillips Centre, at the intersection of Hwy. 29 and Camp Phillips Road, would grow the village’s tax base and bring a number of new retail establishments into the village—destination stores that would make Weston attractive enough to keep local shoppers here.
The plan isn’t based on any current private project in the works, but is meant to be an important roadmap for potential developers. “Rather than waiting for property owners to submit an application, this is the village going out and creating a plan,” Guild says. “We’re informing property owners that, should your properties develop, this is what we would like to see.”
Most properties in that largely undeveloped area (southeast corner of Hwy. 29 and Camp Philips) are for sale, Guild says. This new focus on retail complements the already successful Hwy. 29/Camp Phillips business campus—home to hotels, medical centers, Saint Clare’s Hospital, banks and assisted living—just across the road.
Guild has been taking the plan to county and other leaders to let them know what the village is attempting to achieve.
Weston is a young and growing municipality, Guild says, with a median age of about 40. The most recent projections show Weston gaining as many as 5,400 new residents by 2040 and 30% of Marathon County’s retail growth.
The plan for Camp Phillips Centre allows for several large box retailers, entertainment centers, smaller storefronts and office spaces, warehouse areas, and some light industry. Some residential and green space is included in the master plan.
One might think the corridor would compete with Wausau and Rib Mountain, but Guild says that’s not necessarily true. Weston’s retail trade area extends in the opposite direction, many miles east from the village. Camp Phillips Centre is meant to attract shoppers from as far as Clintonville and Shawano, and would compete more with Appleton and Green Bay, Guild says, adding that bringing more shoppers to Marathon County benefits everyone in the Wausau area.
Weston’s Camp Phillips Centre represents a distinctly different approach than Wausau’s East Riverfront Development. Guild says Weston isn’t putting out an RFP (request for proposals) to private businesses or buying property. Village officials simply want to assist developers who want to do something with those properties.
That said, there is some upfront public investment. The village has spent about $120,000 of tax incremental financing, or TIF, money for engineering, developing the master plan and submitting documents to the state, Guild says. The village projects the corridor could bring in $200-250 million in new development when fully developed.
What kind of retailers could we expect? It’s easier to say what won’t show up. Trader Joe’s reps have told Weston that they’re focusing on the Madison area for now; Costco reps said the same thing about the Fox Valley, Guild says.
What about Walmart? Rumors about a Walmart coming to Weston have been flying around, but Guild says no Weston official has talked with that company about a store in Weston. If something is planned, Guild says, they haven’t spoken to Weston about it yet.
What’s going up in that long-vacant spot in front of Target? A new three-storefront retail space is being developed in front of Target on Schofield Avenue. One space likely will be a restaurant, another a small format retail shop, Guild says.