They are located across the street from one another but stand in sharp contrast.
Whitney Square has new tenants, a fresh layer of asphalt and buzzes with customers. On the east side of Whitney Way, the Hy-Vee that opened in 2013 is a major draw, but the remainder of Westgate Mall, once a hub of retail, is largely deserted, save for the last holdout, Wisconsin Craft Market.
Even the mall walkers are no longer welcome after Hy-Vee, the Iowa-based grocer that bought the property more than 10 years ago, recently shuttered the interior mall space.
“Westgate Mall is closed for redevelopment,” signs posted on the mall’s glass doors read. “Wisconsin Craft market will remain open and accessible via their main store entrance.”
But there is movement that could bring new life to the shuttered mall.
A Hy-Vee official has told the Wisconsin State Journal that “we’re currently evaluating redevelopment proposals from several firms,” according to Christina Gayman, a Hy-Vee spokeswoman. “So we do hope to have the property under contract for sale soon.”
It was unclear how many developers are being considered, when the property would be sold and what type of plans are being proposed by the developers. Gayman did say that Hy-Vee would continue to own the grocery store property.
Hy-Vee began removing the south end of the mall in 2012 to make way for the $20 million, 80,000-square-foot grocery, but plans for the remainder of the property have stalled. In 2016, developer R.H. Johnson Co. from Kansas City, Missouri, submitted a plan to raze the remaining mall property and replace it with four smaller buildings, with about half of the square footage of the current mall. The plan called for at least 15 storefronts that would face a central parking lot and the potential for 90 to 125 housing units.
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That plan never materialized, but Elizabeth Mackey, president of the Midvale Heights Community Association, said she’s hopeful redevelopment of the property comes sooner rather than later.
“My sense is that the neighborhood would like it developed into something other than an empty shopping mall,” said Mackey, who has lived in the neighborhood since 2015. “I think what that something is might be more broadly construed than just a shopping mall. We maybe need to think outside the shopping mall box.”
But across Whitney Way at Whitney Square Shopping Center, the remake is largely complete, although housing is not a component to the project.
T.J. Maxx, which had been one of the few retailers remaining at Westgate, moved last month to Whitney Square into part of the space that had been home to Big Lots, which closed earlier this year. The space is also home to a new Sierra store, which is also owned by TJX Companies, the parent company of T.J. Maxx.
Sierra, also known as Sierra Trading Post, sells discount outdoor recreation, fitness and adventure gear, clothing, footwear and home decor. The retailer was founded in 1986 and buys and resells “closeouts, overstocks and (seconds) from the most trusted brands,” according to its website. The company has 35 stores nationwide. Its Madison store is the second in Wisconsin, joining one other in the Waukesha County village of Delafield.
The third new retailer for Whitney Square is an 8,500-square-foot Five Below that opened last month in the space that at one time was home to the Guitar Center. Five Below is a discount store that sells items $5 and below in price and has more than 700 stores around the country. The company has nine locations in Wisconsin, including in Janesville and at Prairie Lakes in Sun Prairie, where a T.J. Maxx also recently opened. The Guitar Center is now located in Greenway Station in Middleton.
With the additions to Whitney Square, the shopping center is nearly 100% occupied while the building that houses the Dollar Tree and other retailers and restaurants is undergoing a “full remodel,” owner Steve Doran said. The only vacancy, according to Doran, is a 2,500-square-foot space at the corner of the Dollar Tree building. It includes an outdoor patio that Doran hopes can be leased to a coffee shop or restaurant.