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2008-05-07
Cudahy, WI. Wal-Mart & Soccer Team Fail to Score A Goal

Not even an entire soccer team could help Wal-Mart score a goal in Cudahy, Wisconsin. Cudahy is a small community with just over 18,000 people and a motto on the city's border which reads, "Generations of Pride." The vision for the city's future is a revitalized downtown that will become the "heart of the South Shore." The city is right in the middle of updating its Comprehensive Plan, and one of its most prominent goals is creating a "vital downtown." The emphasis is on high quality of life, pedestrian-oriented development. That's why the idea of a new Wal-Mart supercenter ran into rough going in Cudahy from the start. For one thing, the community doesn't need another Wal-Mart. There are currently ten Wal-Mart's within 20 miles of Cudahy, including a discount store 5 miles away in Milwaukee, and a supercenter 18 miles away in Sturtevant, Wisconsin. The idea of a supercenter surfaced in November of 2007, when Wal-Mart offered to build their store in an abandoned site called Iceport. According to CudahyNow, many of the 100 people who came to that first information meeting were cool to the idea of the retailer using the Iceport parcel. "We do not need another outlet for cheap Chinese crap," one of the evening's speaker said. The developer, Continental Properties, outlined tentative plans for the "Cudahy Station," a 26-acre parcel on E. Layton Ave. and the Iceport Way. The Cudahy Wal-Mart was presented as a 137,577 s.f. store. This is on the smaller end of Wal-Mart supercenters, but a company spokeswoman added, "We need to start looking at some of these smaller prototypes because that is what the customer wants. (The Cudahy store) would be a more flexible prototype, something that you have never seen before." Continental said in another phase of the project a hotel and convention center was planned, plus a water park or business incubator. Wal-Mart told the city it was the "best shot" at finding a company with pockets deep enough to make the Iceport property a destination. Wal-Mart promised that it would not seek money from the city for environmental remediation work needed at the site, or for any other part of the project. "There are not a lot of companies that can afford to do all that work, but Wal-Mart can afford it," she told city officials. But Cudahy Mayor Ryan McCue poured ice water on the Iceport plan. He told CudahyNow that his vision was to improve the city's downtown, assist small businesses, and improve the city's image. "I am not a fan of Wal-Mart," Mayor McCue said. "I do not feel that Wal-Mart follows the spirit of the Cudahy master plan." The chilly reception Wal-Mart received forced Continential Properties to keep tinkering with the plan, in a frantic effort to win back public support. In February of 2008, the Cudahy Community Development Authority recommended approval of a new plan from Continental. Under a revised plan, the Wal-Mart would be joined by a soccer training academy for the Milwaukee Wave. "It's long been our dream to have a training home, as well as a place to develop and grow the game throughout southeastern Wisconsin and beyond," a spokesman for the Milwaukee Wave said. The developer agreed to move the buildings closer to the street, and to improve pedestrian access. "We believe that by working with the city, we have come up with a better project," Continental said in late April. "We believe that this project would be a welcome addition to Cudahy and southern Milwaukee County." As time went on, the project started to become known as the "Milwaukee Wave's plan" for a soccer training academy, with Wal-Mart hiding behind the goal posts. But this week the Wave and Wal-Mart both failed to score when the Cudahy Plan Commission rejected the Cudahy Station development. The vote against the plan was 4-3, with Cudahy Mayor Ryan McCue casting one of the no votes. "I'm stunned," a spokesman for the Wave said. "I'm not giving up." But Mayor McCue replied, "The plan commission voted against Continental's proposed use. Continental Properties is still able to submit alternate proposals."

What you can do: It is fascinating to watch how the Cudahy Station began as a retail center that only Wal-Mart could save, to a soccer team's training academy, that just happened to have a Wal-Mart twice the size as the soccer buildings. To their credit, the Cudahy Plan Commission was able to keep the focus on the Wal-Mart, even as the retailer tried to catch a free ride on goodwill for the Milwaukee Wave. Mayor Ryan McCue made it clear that a suburban big box store on the edge of the city is incompatible with the planning process that Cudahy has been engaged in for several years now. Some Mayors might have been wooed by the promise of additional tax revenues, but McCue focused on the city's downtown plans, and the damage that Wal-Mart could bring to that plan. The Milwaukee Wave became the sugar coating on the bitter pill, but the Plan Commission just wasn't ready to swallow the plan. Readers are urged to email Cudahy Mayor Ryan McCue at mccuer@ci.cudahy.wi.us with this message: "Thank you Mayor McCue for not letting Wal-Mart score a goal at Cudahy Station. You are absolutely right: Wal-Mart is incompatible with the goals of your Master Plan. All you would have gotten out of a Wal-Mart supercenter is a couple of empty Pick 'N Saves. This is not economic development, and its definitely not downtown revitalization. Don't let the lure of soccer team distract you from your goal. A Wal-Mart supercenter is a penalty kick to the Cudahy business community, and nothing to cheer about."










 
 
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