Brown Deer planning to purchase American TV site

April 23, 2014

Brown Deer — The village of Brown Deer plans to purchase the former American TV and Appliance property for $2.6 million, with the hopes of finding a development that could fill the empty site and rejuvenate the west end of Brown Deer Road.

American TV and Appliance announced in February that it would be closing its 11 Wisconsin stores and filing for receivership.

The properties have since been under the ownership of Michael Polsky, but with a Dane County Circuit Court decision Monday, he was able to sell the former American properties in Brown Deer and Pewaukee, as well as 19 acres of vacant land in Oak Creek, for $7.25 million to Frontline Commercial Real Estate President John Schlueter.

In Brown Deer, American occupied an 80,000-square-foot building on a 10-acre lot at 6700 W. Brown Deer Road.

Gaining control

Knowing that a Dane County Circuit Court decision was looming on the sale of the property, the village's Community Development Authority and Village Board decided after a closed session meeting last week to buy the property so the village would be able to have control over the site and ensure that it is not left vacant. So when Schlueter purchased the property on Monday, the village acted quickly to get the property under contract for $2.6 million, with a closing date of Jan. 5.

The village has prioritized development on the west end of Brown Deer Road, such as the Walmart that will open in August on the former Lowe's site.

Leaving a vacant lot on the American site, situated on the border of Milwaukee's north side, would be at odds with the village's redevelopment goals.

"We're trying to take a proactive approach here and avoid some of the retail blight and dark storefronts you see to the west on Brown Deer Road," said Nate Piotrowski, the village's director of community development. "The village would like to have control over land use, how it gets reused, how it gets marketed and hopefully how it looks."

Staying flexible

The village would be interested in selling the property to a real estate developer with a vision for light manufacturing, a mixed use development or an existing business looking to expand, Piotrowski said.

Although the village is purchasing the project from Schlueter, Piotrowski said the village would work with him if he had any development plans or tenants who were interested in occupying the space.

"We are interested in working with him or any other parties," Piotrowski said. "We want to keep the lines as open as possible."

Taking a risk

Although it is slightly risky for the village to get involved in the real estate business, Piotrowski said the CDA and Village Board believes it is in the village's best interest to avoid a blighted foreclosed property — a lesson that was learned the hard way at Northridge Mall, located just a mile west.

"We think it's worth doing because the other option is to sit idly on the sidelines and watch the number of properties decrease and storefronts stay dark for years," Piotrowski said. "We want to be proactive, instead of waiting for lightning in a bottle."

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