Michael Horne
Plenty of Horne

Bayshore Plan Misses the Bus

2006 redevelopment was a huge failure. New plan again ignores bus transit and true urbanism.

By - Nov 4th, 2019 01:18 pm
Bayshore Town Center redevelopment rendering. Photo courtesy of Bayshore .

Bayshore Town Center redevelopment rendering. Photo courtesy of Bayshore .

In 2006 the Bayshore Mall, which dates to 1954, was converted into a “Town Center” in a $400 million renovation, resulting in 1.3 million square feet of office and retail space along with 113 apartments and 4,442 parking spaces on the 52-acre property. Financing included the state’s largest Tax Incremental Financing District — $57 million.

The master plan called for Sears, Boston Store, an iPic cinema/entertainment complex and a Kohl’s to anchor the project. Today, the Sears building is demolished, the Boston Store is empty, the iPic is closed. The building housing Kohl’s, which remains in operation, is under separate ownership, although part of the mall. More than 30 of the center’s commercial spaces are vacant, including Sprecher’s Restaurant and pub, which closed in January, Hom Wood Fired Grill, and Applebees, which closed on September 28th.

This year, the assessed valuation of Bayshore was set at $65 million, down from $310 million the year before. Something had to be done. Too bad it was not done correctly the first time — as a Transit Oriented Development.

Yet Another Re-Do

Earlier this year, the City of Glendale announced an agreement with American International Group, Inc., once an investor in the project, and now the owner after the failure of the original developer. AIG would pay off the $57 million TID, reduce mall space by 37 per cent, remodel other spaces, and create a better pedestrian experience in the mall.

The city would then issue a new TID, for $37 million. The new plan would modernize the storefronts, create new streets and pedestrian amenities. The former Sears space would become a home for Total Wine and Spirits. The former iPic would become an entertainment center. There might be a hotel. By 2033, tax money would again flow to the city, and Bayshore’s tax assessment would rise. We have heard that story before.


A Missed Opportunity

Critics of and apologists for the failure of the Bayshore renovation of 2006 point out that the retail landscape has changed nationally since the time when large “Big Box” stores “anchored” shopping malls. Internet shopping, particularly Amazon, has radically changed the market. Also, 2006 was a lousy time for the economy in general and for real estate in particular, as the Great Recession was about to hit the country. Demographics were key as well with the ascendant Millennials, who were expected to occupy apartments in the suburban shopping mall, shop at the national chain stores and enjoy easy freeway access for the workday commute. Many decided instead to live in an urban setting in an actual neighborhood far more walkable, entertaining and accessible to good jobs than Bayshore ever will be.

Thus it comes as a surprise that after a first failed 21st century effort to bring the mall into the present day, the study for the second request for taxpayer money did not take into account transit. “Transit Oriented Developments” have been cited as a major way to revitalize the thousands of failing malls across the country, especially mixed-use developments like this one. Bayshore could have served as an excellent example. With the planned expansion of a street grid within the development, and a “pedestrian-friendly” interior, Bayshore could easily have permitted Milwaukee County Transit System buses to run routes through the center, dropping off customers and workers at the doors to the mall’s rotunda and stores.

Currently all bus stops are on the periphery of the property, including the terminus stops for routes 14, 15 and the Green Line. These stops, on both sides of N. Port Washington Rd., have only very sketchy sidewalk access. There is no sidewalk on the west side of the street, where the bus stop occupies a small pad just inches from busy I-43, and no connection to an express bus stop to the south. Across the street, the sidewalk ends at the stop, with no sidewalk to the north, but a thorny patch of rose bushes instead. Direct access to the stores requires walking through a parking lot, and an automobile ATM lane. Bus drivers on break must likewise take a hike into the mall for a rest room. Certainly Bayshore’s 52 acres could have provided an excellent location for a true transit plaza, making the place a genuine destination. Public funding for private development like this should contain a public amenity like accessible transit.

Current Bus Access

County Board Chair Responds

As noted, Bayshore is located in Glendale, with a population of 12,728. I wrote to Mayor Bryan Kennedy to ask why transit was not considered by the city, but did not receive a response.

At the County level, the area is represented by 1st District Supervisor Theo Lipscomb, who is also the chairman of the county board. He writes:

You may recall that this was an issue several years ago with Southridge having received significant tax increment finance support and then later relocating transit routes further from their entrances. Similarly, when I heard that our transit which currently turns around on the Bayshore site might be relocated I expressed my interest in better accommodating and integrating transit into the site. As you probably know neither I nor the county board get a vote on these matters. My specific inquiry with the Abele Administration centered around their discussions of the redevelopment plan and their vote on the joint review board for TID financing. I was told by Director Brown Martin and economic development staff that they were well aware of the issues and reached some compromise ahead of the approval.

Yet according to Matt Sliker, the Integrated Market Manager for the Milwaukee County Transit System:

All of the current MCTS bus stops at and near Bayshore will continue to operate as they do today.
This includes the six stops that are directly alongside the property and the four stops that are across the street from the property. The locations of these stops are not expected to change.
I also asked Patricia Algiers, President of Chemistry in Place, a former City of Milwaukee development official and a specialist in New Urbanism for her thoughts:

As I reviewed the plan, I felt that overall it is much more relevant and of our time & place. It was good to see that the dated contrived facades have been replaced with cleaner elevations which in some cases incorporate art. Murals and sculpture, along with plantings, walkways and light canopies create a nice flow and will activate and urbanize Bayshore. The plaza and interior landing pads are good areas for strong programming and organic use to create people places.

Looking at the site in terms of how space flows within and then looking at it in terms of how it is accessed are two different things.

The improvements proposed will surely create a new vibrancy. However, access seems to be same as before the overhaul:  I-43 and Silver Spring are still clear suburban barriers separating a pedestrian-friendly world from a car-centric world. If our future will indeed include better and enhanced public transportation, it would make sense that another look be taken at Bayshore’s site plan – and perimeter interface –  to make sure the future of transportation is identified. Will BRT make its way to the Northshore?  Will we see  the streetcar extended? Will Bayshore be better connected to the south side of Silver Spring and walkability encouraged?

The entire episode points out that the greater Milwaukee area is missing out on a sustainable future due in part to the lack of a true regional planning organization, unlike SEWRPC, which seems like a lobby for freeways and suburban development, and to the lack of a regional transportation authority, and the shortsightedness of suburban municipal officials. We have a long way to go.

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2 thoughts on “Plenty of Horne: Bayshore Plan Misses the Bus”

  1. just1paul says:

    Excellent article. I stopped shopping at Bayshore for the reasons written as I travel via MCTS bus and have no desire to hike the distances with packages.

  2. blurondo says:

    Unfortunately, the very accurate closing paragraph could have been written 20 years ago.

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