MOVERS 'N SHAKERS -
Principal, NAI MLG Commercial
Behind many of downtown's retail deals is Bruce Westling. Westling, a broker in the Milwaukee market for nearly 25 years, has made many downtown deals come together--most recently, West Elm. We sat down with the shrewd negotiator to hear his take downtown's advantages and opportunities.
What are the biggest differences in the downtown Milwaukee retail market compared to surrounding locations? Are there key advantages/disadvantages?
Each submarket in the metro area has its pluses and minuses. The key advantage to the downtown retail market is density. Both residential and daytime populations. We're advancing on both fronts, but density begets density. We can't get enough.
When you are "selling" downtown to perspective tenants, what factors do you highlight?
The biggest points that we emphasize include the growth in residential population over the last 10+ years and the accessibility to downtown from suburban communities.
What existing or upcoming downtown location(s) are you most excited about from a retail perspective?
You have to be excited about the ancillary development that will surround the new arena, but there is a lot of opportunity for infill retail in and around downtown.
What is downtown's greatest upcoming opportunity to better the downtown retail market?
As to opportunities, capitalizing on the current momentum including Northwestern Mutual, 833, Lakefront Gateway, Clybourn Corridor, Park East and residential construction.
What is downtown's greatest current or upcoming challenge to overcome to better the retail market?
Biggest challenge. People need to keep an open mind to uses that are proposed for a specific site. In other words, don't get in your own way by placing hurdles in the process that don't need to be there. Milwaukee is pretty hot right now--we're on the national radar screen. We can't blow it.
What downtown deal that you were part of are you the most proud of and why?
It happens to be the most recent, and although I have a number in the pipeline, I'd say the West Elm deal in the Third Ward, at Water and St. Paul. It's a national brand that is accretive to all of downtown. West Elm will be a bell cow for additional national retail, which is essential to the health of any of our great local merchants.
From your perspective, what is the biggest factor that needs to be improved upon to better the downtown retail environment?
We need to finish what we start, especially the Milwaukee Streetcar initiative. In addition, property owners who allow their properties to fall into disrepair should be held to the letter of the law and be required to address any and all violations.