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High Cost, Hobby Lobby's Move May Stop Controlled Intersection Plans at Racine Centre

A traffic light would make getting out of the Piggly Wiggly shopping center safer, but property owners have to foot the bill. With major tenant Hobby Lobby moving out — the light may not happen at all.

Plans have stalled for a new stoplight at the intersection of Sycamore and Washington Avenue as some business owners are worried about the cost despite agreeing that the light would add safety and bring in customers.

And with retailer planning to move from the strip mall, whether or not any plans will continue to move forward remains to be seen.

planning staff proactively approached the Hobby Lobby and Racine Centre landowners earlier this year about installing a light at that intersection to help their businesses grow and possibly attract new tenants as well.

"The village planning department has an excellent rapport with the Department of Transportation of mitigating traffic concerns and improving traffic flow," said Planning Director Ron Meyer. "Providing safe access to any shopping center is in the public's interest."

Meyer and his staff helped facilitate a meeting with DOT officials to talk about the feasability of a stoplight to improve traffic flow into the shopping center there and make exiting safer as well. Plans would include closing the medians between Sycamore and Highway 31 that also provide access into the center.

But, because the traffic light is considered an investment for improving private property, neither the village nor the state would fund the project. Therefore, the property owners and/or their tenants would have to front the money, which could run over $100,000 total for the necessary traffic studies and construction.

"I know it's going to cost me some money," said Ralph Malicki, owner of the . "But a light here would make the center more attractive to businesses and to shoppers and everybody wins."

Malicki, who supports the project and would be willing to pay his portion, thinks having a controlled intersection there would attract more permanent tenants to the strip center — and more shoppers, too.

"It would help businesses here now and in the future if access in and out was controlled with a traffic light," he said. "Shoppers don't want a headache when it comes to getting the things they need. Plus, a light would make it safer for everyone to get into and out of the shopping center."

Not everyone a green light

But B & K Enterprises, the company that owns the building where Hobby Lobby is located, doesn't necessarily agree.

The hobby and craft store, currently located at the corner of Highways 20 and 31 in Mount Pleasant, is planning to move to the old Pick 'n Save site at 2308 S. Green Bay Road in Racine.

Ann Zuehlke, property manager with B & K, said there isn't much support for a light at the primary entrance because, without a replacement tenant, the company isn't in a position to spend the money.

"The Hobby Lobby space may or may not get rented right away, so we can't commit to spending that kind of money," she said.

Both Zuehlke and Malicki said the owners of Racine Centre are trying to sell the multi-unit property. Zuehlke said she doesn't see the current owners putting more money into a property they're trying to sell while Malicki sees it as an investment that could help move the center off the market.

A message left seeking comment from Brendan Reedy, the real estate agent listed on the Racine Centre website, has not been returned.

Jill Johanneck, associate planner in Racine, confirmed that Hobby Lobby has pulled permits, including one to "alter an existing retail space."

"They're modifying the facade to add larger windows and inside they're going to put up a divider wall," she said. "So, they're moving in — but not occupying the whole space. If they do get another tenant after they move in, they'll have to apply for additional permits depending on what needs to be done at that time."

A manager for the store in Mount Pleasant did say they are planning to move, but referred us to the corporate office for any further comment. A message from Patch was returned, but we've been unable to touch base with anyone about a possible timeline and whether or not the move could also mean more jobs for the area.

Jeff Warg August 30, 2012 at 06:26 PM
Nice job breaking the story of Hobby Lobby moving. It will be very good to see the city of Racine gain a business from the suburbs for a change.

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