Lowe's sudden closing dims village's vision

Officials viewed store as a key part of road's revitalization

Oct. 18, 2011

Brown Deer - At the time of its construction in 2006, village officials had hoped the Lowe's store would revitalize Brown Deer Road.

Instead, village staff learned in a fax sent at 7:30 a.m. Monday that Lowe had decided to immediately close its local store, just shy of what would have been its fifth anniversary on Nov. 2. It was one of about 20 stores that closed nationwide.

Lowe's notified the store's 104 employees after closing Sunday and began loading trucks with merchandise during the night. The nationwide home improvement store said the closing was due to market conditions.

Whatever the cause, the closing was far from what local officials had envisioned when they approved the tax-incremental financing district of which the 137,000-square-foot store,, with its attached 28,000-square-foot garden center, is a part.

Village Manager Russell Van Gompel said the village invested $2.4 million in the building, including the costs of clearing the site and relocation costs for businesses in the buildings that were formerly at the site.

"We provided an incentive to relocate but that includes a guaranty in the development agreement that they will repay the $2.4 million whether they are there or not," Van Gompel said. "We anticipate Lowe's will honor its contractual obligation."

Van Gompel said the agreement also calls for Lowe's to repay the village should it sell the building.

"We will be getting a letter out to them to remind them of the contractual obligations," he said.

Ironically, the Village Board packet for its Oct. 17 meeting contained a letter requesting extended holiday hours. It was dated Sept. 29.

Van Gompel said the village would be looking at how to reuse the property.

"Finding the right use and tenant could be difficult in this economy," he said.

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