Muskego - As the holiday season approaches, the Muskego Centre will welcome shoppers with new stores, a new property manager and a new mall owner.
In what the center's manager called "a terrific turnaround" from the recent recession, three new stores opened this year and a day care center took over most of the space that had been occupied by a different day care operation.
The mall shares the shopping area at Racine Avenue and Janesville Road with the separately owned Piggly Wiggly.
Although the center still has five spaces to fill, it's aggressively on the mend from the economic hit that retailers took in 2008 and 2009 from the crashing economy, said Peter Langhoff, president and owner of Langhoff Commercial, which this year took over management of the shopping center.
"Retailers were closing stores everywhere" in those years, he said.
"This has been a terrific turnaround," Langhoff said.
The center has a lot of pluses, Langhoff said - excellent location, the building and grounds are in good condition, good access and visibility and it's beside Piggly Wiggly.
"Not to mention McDonald's and Walgreens," he said.
Old Third Ward ties
Probably the biggest change, though, is behind the scenes.
Milwaukee-based Joseph Property Development, a firm that has made a name for itself in residential and commercial buildings in Milwaukee's Historic Third Ward, paid $2.2 million to purchase Muskego Centre last summer.
The mall is the only shopping center the firm has in its portfolio at this time, but it has owned others in the past.
The new owners have no plans for brick-and-mortar changes, other than sprucing up the landscaping and filling up the remaining spaces, he said.
The change of ownership seems to have been pretty seamless for the tenants.
NAPA Auto Parts owner Ken Myers, who opened his store at the center in 2009, said, "I've not seen anything different."
Dan Lowe, who opened Daily Dollar there this summer just before the sale, said the management that Langhoff has provided is an improvement over the previous management. For instance, Lowe noticed that the landscaping wasn't taken care of before, and generally when he needs help, he gets it.
Lowe isn't naïve about the center filling three vacancies about the time of the sale. He suspects that he and probably the other two stores and the day care center that came in about the same time got good deals on their rents because a sale was in the offing. He said he would see what happens after his five-year lease is up.
The other tenants new this year are the Juice Garden Café, the shipping outlet U.S. Box & Office and Kids Kampus day care.
Room for more
But there are still vacancies where Mamma Mia's, H&R Block, First Weber Group, left over space from Leaps and Bounds day care that Kids Kampus didn't fill and a fifth space.
The largest is Mama Mia's 3,800 square feet. The space, which is shown to prospect tenants virtually every week, has attracted a lot of interest, Langhoff said.
Shopping center owner Robert Joseph is a deal-maker who will be able to figure out a way to bring that tenant to the center in a way that makes sense for everyone, Langhoff said.
The vacancies could be filled in six months to a year, he estimated.
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