SUN PRAIRIE — The anchors on this city’s southwest side are formidable.
Target was the first to break ground and opened in 2009.
In August, Janesville-based Woodman’s Market opened a 225,000-square-foot, $20 million grocery store.
On Thursday, Costco will open to its card-carrying members a 152,000-square-foot warehouse, the second in Dane County and fourth in the state.
But more is planned at the interchange of highways 151 and C.
There’s room for a fourth big-box retailer, and Marcus Corp. has plans for a 100,000-square-foot, 17-screen cinema complex that could break ground in the spring and replace the aging theater on Madison’s Far East Side.
But these retail and entertainment anchors draw more than just customers.
Farmland a few years ago, this city’s south gateway has become a beacon for smaller retailers, restaurants and hotels trying to cash in on the traffic generated by the anchor businesses.
“Woodman’s Market, Costco and Target — it doesn’t get a lot better than this and I think as each one of these open, you get more and more interest for this project,” said Jerry Connery, one of two co-founders of Prairie Development, which is the major developer near the interchange.
“Building something is not a big deal. It’s being able to look at what the potential is on a piece of property and for a community,” he said.
Connery, his partner, Ron Fedler, and Fedler’s son, Chad Fedler, have high hopes for the property, which was purchased in 1999.
Infrastructure already in place
The company has spent more than $10 million on roads, water and sewer lines, other infrastructure and traffic studies to prepare the 120-acre property for potential retailers. It means a project needs only weeks instead of months for city approvals. The up-front work could help them meet their goal of filling the property with 890,000 square feet of retail with an assessed value of $175 million in three to six years.
“On the West Side of Madison, your growth is done because you’re up against Middleton and you’re up against Verona,” Chad Fedler said. “The growth now is all north and east and we’re right in the heart of that.”
The Prairie Lakes development is next to Woodman’s, which has nine lots on its north side that are being targeted for development. One of the lots is home to the Woodman’s gas station and car wash and another is being reserved for future expansion, according to Joe Kleiman, a commercial agent with Mid America Real Estate in Milwaukee.
One lot is close to being leased while another could be home to a 10,000- to 12,000-square-foot shopping center for retailers that are too small for their own standalone buildings. That project could begin this spring.
Uses for the lots include financial services, restaurants and service-type businesses that could include hair care and dry cleaning.
“By this time next year, I would say it would look like a thriving shopping center with little remaining availability,” Kleiman said. “Traffic, it’s what helps drive their business and that’s why this (interchange) becomes a real positive.”
More than 50,000 vehicles a day use Highway 151, and the Sun Prairie developments are about a mile from Interstate 39-90-94.
The nearby American Center business park provides a large daytime population while Sun Prairie, Dane County’s second largest community, provides almost 30,000 potential customers.
Hoping to be a destination
Both the Woodman’s properties and Prairie Lakes, with its major anchors, are expected to draw customers from more than 50 miles away, many of them who had been doing business at East Towne, Hilldale Shopping Center and West Towne in Madison, or Greenway Station and Costco in Middleton.
“I think we can compete with anyone because we have better access than a lot of the other places,” Connery said. “We probably have the best site in Dane County when you look at everything.”
Prairie Lakes, Connery said, will be similar to Greenway Station but generate more traffic because of the anchor retailers. Ponds with fountains, dry stream beds and prairie-style architecture with an emphasis on stone highlight the design of the project.
“From our standpoint, we’d like to see a good mix and aesthetically, we want it to be an attractive development that sets a good standard for that entryway,” said Scott Kugler, the city’s planning director. “It’s making Sun Prairie more of a destination. If we play that right, we may be able to take that additional interest and additional traffic coming into the community and use that to our advantage for a lot of our existing businesses or to help spur growth.”
At Prairie Lakes, Pizza Ranch, the first of what could be several retail businesses to complement the retail anchors, has broken ground and is scheduled to open in mid-February.
In the heart of Prairie Lakes, referred to as the Shoppes at Prairie Lakes, the first of three 13,500-square-foot retail buildings is under construction. Elsewhere in the development, at least three restaurants are planned to overlook the ponds on the property, and there are plans for a common area with a waterfall, pond and fire pit.
There is room for an 80- to 90-room hotel, junior box stores, a department store and one lot available for a fourth big-box store.
Retailers’ mood ‘more positive’
Chad Fedler said he came away confident after he attended the International Council of Shopping Centers convention in Las Vegas. The three-day event in May featured retailers from around the world looking for locations.
“The mood is definitely a lot more positive, and we’re starting to see more activity than we saw in 2010 and even 2011,” he said. “The mood is changing. I think there are a lot of dollars that have sat on the sideline after 2008 that would like to be deployed.”