Positioning Kenosha County for better, more diverse entertainment, restaurant and specialty retail

In the past year, municipal leaders from Salem, Bristol, City of Kenosha, Downtown Kenosha, Inc. (DKI), Pleasant Prairie and Somers – along with myself and Director of Planning & Development for Kenosha County Andy Buehler – have come together to learn and execute best practices in retail development.  We want to attract and secure opportunities that communities most desire and are within our reach.  Restaurants, entertainment venues and specialty retail options significantly enhance the quality of life for residents, add tangible value and retain people and families in communities.

Gathering information from the communities and sharing that with consultants who have the capacity and expertise to move us forward was our first step.  Municipal leaders outlined prime retail sites for development and after a request for experience and expertise, we collaborated with commercial real estate consultants Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) to draft marketing materials and broaden our relationships with key retailers/developers.  A large part of this project is to identify and bridge relationships with high demand choices and is the space where JLL is most needed.  The municipal leaders are also preparing to attend the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) – the premier event for the shopping center industry – and Commercial Association of Realtors (CARW) events designed to open more opportunities and to secure deals.  JLL is positioning our communities to be prepared to go after prime retail interested in our area by showcasing the communities, their assets and their desire to secure these developments.  It is also an opportunity for communities to voice their thoughts about the developments they would like to see.

This collaborative group is also partnering with Lacy Beasley from Retail Strategies, Inc.  She was recently the keynote speaker at the DKI  State of the Downtown event held last month. Approximately 115 people attended, including stakeholders and small businesses from throughout the County.

Given the reality that retail stores across the United States have lost out to large online outlets, Lacy’s message was that it is not all bad news. Communities need to respond by being more strategic.  Residents and visitors need to buy local to preserve local.  Lacy advised Kenosha County to go after and secure businesses that offer quality experiences, populate downtowns most naturally and tend to have a spillover effect or cross over for other businesses that live and breathe by traffic counts.  After all, we can’t eat or drink online.  Inviting cool restauranteurs, craft breweries and niche retail can spur other opportunities for a community.  Lacy praised the Heritage House boutique hotel project and added residential options downtown because added density enhances the demand for local as well.  The more in the community that feel this way the better the opportunity to retain key businesses.

As more people and more employers and jobs are being attracted to the area, the special retail strategy project continues to build momentum.  KABA will keep you posted on latest developments as we continue our work together.

Written by Heather Wessling Grosz, Vice President of Economic Development for the Kenosha Area Business Alliance 

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