Walmart’s most recent submittal for a big box retail store at the Larsen Green property shows little change from past submissions (as seen in below image) and conflicts with the City approved plan for downtown (see AuthentiCity plan). The City proposes alternate options to compromise with Walmart Real Estate Business Trust.
On May 9, the City of Green Bay received a submittal from Wal-mart Real Estate Business Trust requesting an amendment to the Larsen Green Planned Unit Development (PUD) zoning designation. Unlike the January (previous) submittal to revise the Comprehensive Plan, the May (current) application requests to change the zoning for the property to permit a single-story 154,000 square foot store with over 600 accessory surface parking spaces on 15 acres.
Staff will expeditiously begin a thorough review of the submittal, but some observations are offered here based on an initial examination of the materials.
- The May (current) site plan is almost exactly the same as the January (previous) site plan with the exception of a box that is labeled ‘ 1st Floor Parking. Air Rights – 500,000+ SF Office and Residential.’ The application did not provide a development proposal for the air rights space or indicate who would maintain ownership of the air rights.
- The outlot on the corner of Broadway and Kellogg has not changed between the May and January site plans.
- The May site plan is shown in color and includes landscaping. Landscaping was proposed with the January submittal, but on a separate sheet.
o The May (current) submittal shows improvements over the January (previous) elevation design in the form of different colors, architectural features, and window displays.
o The May elevations show faux spandrel glass windows that emulate a two-story façade, but the height of the building has not changed significantly from the original submittal.
o The size of the building has not changed.
Context and Initial Analysis
The Larsen Green site, where Walmart proposes to locate, anchors the north end of the Broadway District in Downtown Green Bay. In recent years the Broadway District has redefined itself as a vibrant and exciting destination that is the envy of Main Street programs nationwide. The aesthetic, scale and character of the buildings and streetscape play a key role in the success of Broadway. Just across the river, Washington Street is bustling with new construction that will bring 190 new residential units and over 250,000 new square feet of office in the next 5 years. With these and previous efforts, Green Bay has successfully shifted a struggling core into a dynamic downtown. The Larsen Green site is a key property in the effort to continue the momentum to create an authentic sense of place based on history and location near the Fox River.
The May site plan, which is substantially unchanged from the January plan, does not include mixed uses, a street network, or pedestrian scale as recommended by the AuthentiCity report. That report, created with citizen input and unanimously approved by the City Council, emphasizes the importance of residential choices integrated with office and retail development. The May site plan does propose air rights on the east side of the building that could provide for future development. The location of the air rights, however, is directly beneath high tension power lines and also provide no accommodation for grade level access to the upper levels. As proposed, the air rights seem to have limited development potential, but further analysis is needed to determine an accurate value.
The May Walmart site plan is significantly divergent from the AuthentiCity plan. The benefits of the submittal include fulfilling a need for a downtown grocer and addressing any site preparation issues. These benefits must be considered in context with related development impacts. We welcome the opportunity to work with Walmart to develop a store in Green Bay that is supported by the City’s plans and codes and is also financially successful. The City strives to work collaboratively and build relationships that further the development of a better Green Bay. A few of the many alternatives for Walmart include:
1) Alternate sites: There are alternate sites within the Velp Avenue corridor that are less than a mile away from this property. These sites provide competitive demographics and would permit a one story supercenter with surface parking. The Larsen Green site would remain available for development as a loft/warehouse style mixed use project as stipulated by the PUD Zoning District and AuthentiCity plan.
2) Alternate plan: While previous plans for Larsen Green have not included retail uses over 50,000 square feet, there is value in exploring all options. The below diagram shows a potential compromise solution that accommodates a 150,000 square foot store on two stories but also includes urban mixed use development and pedestrian scale.
3) Creative Design: As an international company, Walmart has expansive knowledge of development in many different markets. They have done some very creative things in other areas that might also work in Green Bay.
A draft timeline of the PUD Amendment process is provided below. This timeline is subject to change.
|May 9||Walmart submits proposal requesting amendment to Larsen Green Planned Unit Development (PUD).|
|May 9-30||Staff review and development of PUD details
|May 28||Send notices of June 9 Plan Commission meeting|
|Week of May 28||Conduct neighborhood meeting (Applicants)|
|June 9 PC Meeting||Consider PUD amendments, possible decision|
|Weeks of June 9 and 16||If needed, continue work on PUD provisions based on Plan Commission direction|
|June 23 PC Meeting||Possible 2nd consideration of PUD amendments|
|July 15 Council Meeting||First reading on PUD amendments|
|August 19 Council Meeting||Second reading and hearing on PUD amendments|