GREEN BAY - It could be back to the drawing board for a proposed Walmart store in Green Bay's downtown Broadway District, as there may be a change of plans regarding where it might go.
Walmart has previously proposed a 150,000-square-foot, one-story store in the district.
Mayor Jim Schmitt sat down with Walmart officials for the first time today, urging the retailer to look at two other sites in the city, in addition to the property on North Broadway at Kellogg. The mayor wouldn’t say where those other sites are.
But what started out to be a straightforward, private meeting at city hall Thursday afternoon, ended up being anything but.
As members of the media walked into city hall, shortly before 2 p.m., Schmitt was walking out. Before hopping into a city vehicle and driving off, he said Walmart requested a last-minute off-site meeting because the company didn't want to deal with the media.
But FOX 11 found the two groups, meeting in an upstairs room of Titletown Brewing Company. The restaurant is adjacent to the property where the proposed Broadway District store would be built.
"Why did you agree to it?" FOX 11’s Bill Miston asked of the mayor and the sudden meeting location change.
"Well you know, they're the customer," he replied.
That being said, Schmitt says he's still not sold on Walmart’s Broadway store, saying the proposed building is still too big. The mayor has repeatedly said he’s against any Walmart store concept for the downtown that is considered a “Big Box.”
"We had a very productive meeting, you know they had some goals, as do we, and they are going to work on a plan that they have as well as visit some other sites in the next two weeks and we're going to get together again in the next couple of weeks to talk a little bit more," said Schmitt.
“Did you specifically point [Walmart officials] in another direction for a store?” FOX 11 asked.
“I think they have been shown this site and this site's been very heavily marketed to them,” he said. “And when you look at the market they want to serve, there are some other sites that I think could work for them."
Could they work for them? That’s a question FOX 11 wanted to ask the Walmart officials who met with the mayor. But that was easier said than done. FOX 11’s Bill Miston had to run after them in the parking lot after they ducked out a back stairwell of Titletown.
"Why did you request an off-site meeting and why did Walmart not want to deal with the media?" FOX 11 asked of Walmart spokeswoman Lisa Nelson, after she agreed to step out of the car and talk with the media.
"Well, it wasn't about the media,” Nelson said. ”It was about just the location. We were already [at Titletown] and we were already meeting, and discussing the plan."
Nelson says Walmart will take into consideration the two other options the city has put forward. But says it is still interested in building a store in the Broadway district. She says the company wants that project to surpass expectations.
On Broadway, Inc. -- the business improvement organization which owns the land -- was not a part of today's meeting. The group's executive director, Chris Naumann tells FOX 11 he still believes Walmart is interested in the site, until he hears otherwise.
The Walmart debate was part of Wednesday’s annual Town Hall meeting for On Broadway, Inc. Some business owners argue the store doesn't fit the district.
"I think it's extremely likely that we can interest other businesses that are more suited to that parcel than a Walmart would be," said Marta Mezo, owner of Marza Luna.
But others don’t see it as a potential conflict for district businesses.
"As far as Walmart, I don't think it would hurt anyone as far as the On Broadway District," added Mike Hannon, an On Broadway, Inc., volunteer.
Supporters of the project say Walmart would provide what a much needed place to shop for groceries in the area. A need the mayor does not deny.
Walmart and the city will meet again in two weeks.
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