Jeramey Jannene

Kohl’s Downtown Store Is Test of Smaller Format

CEO promises data-driven approach to deliver everything customers love about Kohl's.

By - Jul 15th, 2022 12:41 pm
Kohl's at HUB640. Rendering from Kohl's

Kohl’s at HUB640. Rendering from Kohl’s

Come fall 2023, you’ll be able to spend your Kohl’s cash in downtown Milwaukee.

The Menomonee Falls-based retailer is opening a small format, 40,000-square-foot store in the former Boston Store space on the corner of W. Wisconsin Ave. and N. Vel R. Phillips Ave.

“It will have everything our associates and customers love about Kohl’s,” said CEO Michelle Gass at a press conference Friday morning in the future store space. That includes a Sephora cosmetics shop, an Amazon returns counter and a mix of products based on customer buying patterns.

“As mayor of Milwaukee, I am excited to welcome the iconic brand to downtown Milwaukee,” said Mayor Cavalier Johnson. “Kohl’s will have a presence on the main street in the state of Wisconsin.”

It’s part of a plan from the retailer to open 100 smaller stores. It’s current stores are approximately 80,000 square feet each, often colocated with malls or in suburban shopping centers.

“We are going to be looking to build out in urban, suburban and rural [locations],” said Gass. “What we are doing here today is part of our growth strategy.”

“It will give us all an opportunity to spend our Kohl’s cash,” the mayor joked.

The company’s effective promotional strategy named like a corporate currency, is a store credit earned through purchases from the national department store.

But will Kohl’s move any office jobs to downtown Milwaukee? The company is moving into a building that was both the corporate headquarters of Boston Store parent Bon-Ton and a department store.

“Our home is still in Menomonee Falls,” said Gass, who noted the company also has an office in New York City and satellite information technology offices.

So no downtown office, at least for now.

Gass declined to answer questions about the potential acquisition of the retailer.

Earlier this month, Kohl’s ended acquisition talks with Franchise Group. But the company is still considered a likely acquisition target. Franchise Group was expected to finance a large part of its acquisition by selling the underlying real estate associated with many of the Kohl’s department stores.

The eight-story Boston Store Building was acquired by Chicago-based North Wells Capital in 2017 and fully redeveloped as HUB640 following the department store chain’s 2018 bankruptcy and subsequent liquidation.

North Wells planned to strategically redevelop the former Boston Store Building, but that work was expedited when Bon-Ton went from downsizing to liquidation. In 2021, the company gutted and rehabbed each of the former Bon-Ton floors. The approximately 232,000 square feet of space on the upper floors, including the former second level of the Boston Store, are now designed to house office tenants, while the 66,125-square-foot first floor is reserved for commercial tenants. New common spaces were developed and a portion of the parking structure was converted to a rooftop deck.

The new owner, working with Founders 3, has successfully attracted North Shore HealthcareEight Eleven Group and Abacus Architects to the building. Engberg Anderson Architects and Kelly Construction & Design led the design and construction on the redevelopment.

The building is directly attached to The Avenue, the redeveloped Shops of Grand Avenue mall. It stretches between W. Wisconsin Ave. and W. Michigan St. along N. Vel R. Phillips Ave. (the former N. 4th St.).

Much of the $1.9 million tax incremental financing subsidy once intended to keep Bon-Ton in Downtown remains in city control. City officials confirmed Friday that there were no discussions of subsidizing the new store without any office jobs. A portion of the subsidy was previously spent on demolition by North Wells to prepare the building for future tenants.

The future Kohl’s space, which is likely to be directly linked to the 3rd Street Market Hall and skywalk system, is currently stripped to the studs.

Johnson noted that shoppers at the store would find a revitalized neighborhood, including The Avenue, Bradley Symphony Center, bus rapid transit line, potential streetcar extension and planned Vel R. Phillips Plaza.

“I want to thank Kohl’s for believing in the city of Milwaukee,” said Johnson.

The mayor and CEO were joined at the announcement by Department of City Development Commissioner Lafayette Crump, area Alderman Robert Bauman, representatives of North Wells Capital and Kohl’s associates.

Photos and Renderings

HUB640 Redevelopment Photos

Aerial Photos

Former Boston Store

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2 thoughts on “Kohl’s Downtown Store Is Test of Smaller Format”

  1. Polaris says:

    Gre@t news, of course, but the Kohl’s brand almost everywhere is over the top. Wishful thinking… Give ‘em the ground floor and have them work for the rest.

  2. Polaris says:

    Frankly, my own wishful thinking around all this was that the store was a teaser for a bigger announcement that Kohl’s would be relocating at least it’s Innovation Center to HUB 640, the 4th and Wisconsin lot, or 310W.

    Hopes dashed, again…

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