GREEN BAY - A call for better communication to resolve some contentious issues in Green Bay's Broadway District. It comes from a group appointed by the mayor that works with On Broadway, Incorporated to use tax dollars to improve the district.
The catalyst for the concern is the disclosure that Walmart has shown interest in buying a part of the old Larsen Canning Company that On Broadway now owns.
The city loaned On Broadway, Inc. $3.5 million to buy this property in 2007. That loan will come due in eight months.
Green Bay Mayor Jim Schmitt has strongly opposed a Walmart super center in the district. Thursday he made that clear, again, to the business improvement district's board, also calling for a change in On Broadway leadership.
"Everybody was caught a little bit off guard with this thing," said Ray Salter, chair of the improvement district board.
Salter says last week's letter of no confidence by 18 Broadway businesses in On Broadway, Inc. leadership only worsened the situation.
"That was then transposed into the fact that we were all anti-Walmart, anti this, anti that," said Salter.
Salter doesn't deny some businesses in the district are displeased with On Broadway. But says Walmart brought it to a head.
"This particular alliance [of businesses] has been unhappy about the way On Broadway's been operating for probably the last six months to a year."
"This disconnect, we just have to figure this out,” said Schmitt. “You know, I think there – a change in leadership – there's a time to look at that."
The mayor claims On Broadway's Executive Director Chris Naumann's been unreachable – to both him and Broadway business owners. Also, Schmitt says Naumann isn't telling the full story behind the Walmart discussions and that Walmart isn't the best fit.
"We want to help and we think that could be developed into something different than a one-story big box. But I'm just the mayor."
Naumann says nothing has been decided for sure, and that his group is now waiting to hear back from Walmart.
"It's purely a window of opportunity for Walmart to do their due diligence and for them to come back to the Larsen Governing Board, and say, ‘We're either interested and want to pursue and move forward and here's our proposal,’” said Naumann. “Or no thank you."
Naumann says the public would be a part of any discussions if and when a plan is brought forward. The expectation is that'll take about 45 days.
Still no idea what Walmart might propose, specifically in Green Bay. But what we do know is at a retailing conference in New York on Wednesday, Walmart's President and CEO did say the company will be building more smaller 'Neighborhood Markets' in the coming year.
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