GREEN BAY - Walmart says it is looking into the possibility of building a new store in Green Bay's Broadway District.
City officials familiar with the discussions say the big-box retailer is looking at a roughly 14 acre property on the east side of Broadway and north of Kellogg Street.
The land is part of what was once the Larsen Canning Company.
On Broadway, Incorporated owns this site known as Larsen Green.
Even some city officials a part of the discussions between On Broadway and Walmart say the discussions are so preliminary there are no answers to answer the questions people have.
And Broadway business owners have split opinions on the possibility.
"When you came here eight years ago, what was Broadway like?" asked FOX 11’s Bill Miston.
“It was up and coming,” said Angie Kusek-Schubert, owner of D.I.Y. Studio and Gifts.
It's that feel that led Angie Kusek-Schubert to open her own arts and crafts store on Broadway two years ago.
She says just possibility of having the Walmart name down the road would ruin all of that.
We have passion. And that's where I'm questioning where is this coming from? It's not with the business owners,” said Kusek-Schubert.
Titletown Brewing Company owner Brent Weycker has his own plans to redevelop other parts of the former Larsen property. Weycker says he needs to learn more about what Walmart might be proposing.
"Time has to kind of like, bare out, and find out what is going to happen over there,” said Weycker.
The city's planning director Rob Strong says the only reason the city knows of the discussions between On Broadway, Inc. and Walmart is because the On Broadway board has three representatives from the city on it.
“The word got out - as I said, we had a confidentiality agreement - the word should not have gotten out,” said Strong.
Walmart responded to FOX 11's requests for an interview with a statement saying:
"We look forward to working with city officials and downtown business leaders to evaluate a site in the Broadway District to propose a store that best fits the needs of the community."
On Broadway, Inc. purchased the site from Birds Eye Foods in 2007 for $6 million.
The city has no control over development of the site, as long as any project follows the zoning plan.
Strong says the guidelines for this property call for a combination of mixed use retail, office, public use and residential.
“As you might guess, a big-box - from what I described - would not necessarily meet those requirements,” said Strong.
On Broadway's executive director Christopher Naumann declined to talk to FOX 11.
When the community development group purchased the property, $3.5 million was guaranteed by the city. That debt is coming due in about eight months.
"I think because of their financial pressures, they are going a direction that I don't think is good for the long, long term,” said Green Bay Mayor Jim Schmitt.
Mayor Schmitt says he's not happy about the talks with Walmart. Not because he's against Walmart, but against what the name means for a district like Broadway.
"And to sell out to a big-box, I just don't think that's the answer,” said Schmitt.
Schmitt says if On Broadway can't pay its debt to the city, the city will take control over the property.
Planning director Rob Strong says he expects the Walmart plan to be a topic of debate during a public hearing concerning the future of Green Bay's downtown.
That meeting will be at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Neville Museum.
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