Updated Wed., 5/23 – The unstable economy in recent years has caused one local entrepreneur to take matters into his own hands.
Mark Sturm is set to break ground on a new retail development located at 1306 Lincoln Street, next to O’Reilly Auto Parts. Sturm, who brought his plans for the site before the city’s Planning Commission Tuesday, said that the project would be very similar in scope to the Lincoln Street retail development he built roughly four years ago that now houses Cellcom, Cooper Kitchen & Bath Design and Wickersham Jewelry.
“I’ve had that property for a while now, and while there’s been substantial interest from several potential tenants, nobody has jumped on it,” said Sturm. “I decided that now is the time to make the move.”
According to the site plan Sturm presented to the Planning Commission, the new development will have roughly 10,000 square feet of retail space and about 50 parking stalls. He hopes to break ground on the building within 30 days, in the hope of having the building completed and filled with retail tenants in advance of the Christmas shopping season. Sturm said he was not prepared to discuss what specific retail tenants he is currently in talks with, but did say that he already has several smaller prospective tenants lined up to rent space in the building.
“That area of Lincoln Street between Kohl’s and Walmart has the most retail growth potential in the city,” said Sturm. “The traffic flow out there is outstanding, and it’s only going to get bigger. If you’re going to expand to Rhinelander, that’s the place you want to be.”
The development will have retail spots of between 1,200 and 7,000 square feet available, and have the capability of housing up to five separate businesses. Sturm said that, while he was hoping to be able to market the parcel to one large tenant, the current business environment is instead dictating that smaller spaces with less overhead costs are more marketable.
“Companies just aren’t making that jump to expand into large spaces right now,” said Sturm. “One acre of property on Lincoln Street is selling at $400,000 right now, and most businesses interested in Rhinelander can’t take that kind of financial risk. This way they don’t take near as much of a risk and can get their feet wet in this town instead.”
Sturm also said that if he cannot fill the building with tenants initially, he is considering opening his own retail store within the development. He said his plan would be a “General Store” format, and would serve as a business incubator for entrepreneurs that want retail space but don’t necessarily have the financial means to own a store–a similar idea to what the Novak family has done with their Brown Street Mall project in downtown Rhinelander.
“The store would allow smaller businesses to get retail space with much less risk and good traffic flow,” said Sturm. “I think there are a lot of local entrepreneurs that have great products, but they don’t have the financial means to market them. This idea would give them the opportunity to do that–give them a chance to go into business for themselves.”
Sturm will build the first building on the lot adjacent to O’Reilly Auto Parts, and should the development go according to plan, he has plans to build an identical building right next to the first, making another 10,000 square feet of retail space available. Sturm said the materials used to construct the buildings will be a “step up” from his development across the road, in an effort to attract “higher end” tenants that he feels will be a proper fit for the location. It’s likely that he won’t break ground on the second building until fall of this year or spring of 2013…although it could be sooner if the interest arises.
“The ultimate plan is to have that whole block developed into higher-end retail opportunities, right up to Home Depot’s retention pond” said Sturm. “Moving forward on this is going to be a great thing for the rest of the businesses on that part of Lincoln Street, and it will make the other available property in that area more attractive to potential buyers. There’s a lot of potential for growth there.”
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