Grand Avenue's Old Navy will close on May 5
After nearly five years, Old Navy at the Shops of Grand Avenue is closing on May 5.
In 2004, which has three other area locations, was heralded as part of a rebirth of the Downtown mall. At the time, Linens 'N Things and TJ Maxx were also announced as significant, new tenants. Linens 'N Things has since filed bankruptcy and closed all of its locations. TJ Maxx remains open at the mall.
Much of Old Navy's merchandise, by day's end Tuesday, had already been well picked over. Store employees said that "staples" like socks and other basics will be shipped to other locations, but much of store's merchandise is priced to move quickly with clearance items priced at an additional 75 percent off.
Employees wouldn't comment on the closing, but many shoppers seemed to think that lack of a Wisconsin Avenue presence and Old Navy's somewhat hidden location at the mall hurt the Gap, Inc.-owned retailer.
Erica Anderson, Director of Marketing and Specialty Leasing at the Shops of Grand Avenue, said this in an e-mail, "The Shops of Grand Avenue regrets to report that Old Navy has decided to terminate their tenancy. We have enjoyed their store here, however we need to address the fact that ultimately, this concept was not the answer for The Shops of Grand Avenue. We look to the future with enthusiasm and hope for our beautiful downtown shopping center with unique prospective retailers that will drive consumers downtown. Even during this dreary economic climate, we are in talks with retailers that will truly enhance the experience of The Shops of Grand Avenue and downtown Milwaukee."
I would agree that downtown revitalization has, unfortunately skipped one of downtown Milwaukee's most prominent streets. The fact that even when the Grand was fresh and new, it didn't spawn new, national retail across the street and in the entire Westown area, says to me that the Shops have become both an indirect cause for the lack of development. And we're not alone. MANY major metro areas have struggled with the problem of attracting retailers downtown. I was in Minneapolis a few weeks ago and as nice as their downtown is, they too are struggling with several vacancies. To me, the solution for the Grand is change the concept and make it more of a destination by having Milwaukee (and if possible WI) only locations for major national retailers. That's why Mayfair and Bayshore continue to be so successful.
The Old Navy stores everywhere will be closing. It's the least profitable (believe it or not) of the Gaps' holdings. Grand Avenue could've done backflips and the outcome would be the same.
You really can't judge downtown Milwuaukee based on the area around Grand Avenue. The Wisconsin Ave. strip is a dead zone because of the mall. It's no surprise Westown has stayed stagnant considering the poor urban planning that's occured there over that last 4 decades. Downtown has been revitalizing since the 90's. All the areas around the mall are booming (Eastown, Third Ward...). Westown reflects those areas a decade ago. The City, and developers have yet to really address the area.
I for one am greatly disappointed that Erica Anderson can acknowledge that the mall has enjoyed the tenure of Old Navy but then say the store did not really fit with the Grands vision. I suspect that her job does call for a positive spin for the mall and downtown. I wonder if she really has the facts about the store closing. Somehow I have my doubts. Not sure what type of store she thinks will fit downtown. It has become mostly empty buildings. I am not from the Milwaukee metro area but my family and I enjoy what a small-big city like Milwaukee has to offer. All of my children are or have attended area Milwaukee Colleges so I have seen the so called roller coaster rise and fall of downtown Milwaukee. Prior to reading anything about the Old Navy closing at Grand Avenue today I had lunch at Mo's Irish Pub across the street from the Grand. Ironically I commented to my lunch companion how very sad it was that everything in the building housing Mo's was vacant, we walked to the corner and what did we see more empty buildings. We talked about how Milwaukee has never been able to successfully revitalize their downtown. Yes the parking sucks downtown but it does in any big city. Ever been downtown Chicago how about San Francisco or Dallas. I don't know what the future holds for the Grand but I question how much the mall management did to try and keep Old Navy. Without them I suspect the mall is doomed. There doesn't seem to be too many shoppers there, not many stores to draw the shoppers but you know I for one came downtown to shop for the Holidays. Why? Because parking was better downtown than at Mayfair, Bayshore or Brookfield Square. I probably will not come to the Grand after May 5th because TJ Max just is not enough to bring me back. While Erica Anderson and the mall management try to visualize the next upward swing on the roller coaster of revitalization of The Grand the building's other tenants are more than likely looking at their contracts to see when they end in order that they can leave as well. I seriously doubt that Gap, Inc. would close the store and vacate the premises without doing their due diligence. More likely, when Linens n Things went out and it was an anchor store that's space was not filled by another big store Gap, Inc read the writing on the wall as well as the fine print in their contract and seized the opportunity to move on. Take off the rose colored glasses because it's pretty black and white. More and more of the downtown buildings are empty. Empty bulidings will provide opportunity for crime to increase and Milwaukee sure does not need that. Again I ask what did the Grand Avenue Mall Management do to try and keep Old Navy????
According to the JSOnline Gap will still have to pay rent on that space until 2012. I don't know if they pay a reduced rent, but it the owner of Grand Avenue is still getting rent payments no matter what so they will not be in a hurry to do anything with the space. I live downtown and I think I stopped in that Old Navy three times in the past five years. And I only stopped in there to grab something quick and I was in Grand Avenue because I used to work out at the Y. Since I switched gyms I haven't been back in over two years. Not sad to see it go. Now if TJ Max and a few of the cell phone and Airbrushed T-shirt places can close up, maybe they blow up Grand Avenue and do something useful.
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