GREEN BAY (WLUK) — After decades of decline, Green Bay’s former East Town Mall received a shot in the arm this year and now the initial investment in the area is being tripled.
East side Green Bay native Garritt Bader’s development company, GB Real Estate Investments LLC, initially spent $5 million to buy and redevelop the former mall property. That investment is now at $15 million, with more properties being purchased and other development in the works.
After converting the traditional interior mall format at East Town into exterior-only storefronts, Bader says there’s more to be done to the shopping and dining hub he used to ride his bike to growing up.
“It’s a little bit of that pride of being what you saw when you grew up and bringing it back,” said Hader. “Another part is just simple, there is no reason this couldn’t have happened, so let’s make it happen.”
In a move that has become rare, Bader did not ask the city for any financial assistance to redevelop the old mall.
On Tuesday, the city’s Redevelopment Authority agreed to pitch in $330,000 to update the facade of Hobby Lobby, which Bader recently acquired.
“In terms of overall percentage of that investment, this is a fairly small amount compared to other projects we’ve seen,” said Neil Stechschulte, Development Director for the City of Green Bay.
“The current property hasn’t been touched much since 1981 and it’s showing its age,” Bader said of Hobby Lobby.
Bader believes updating Hobby Lobby will help fill two vacancies in the remodeled mall and one future spot next to it.
There are also plans to construct new buildings in the parking lots, where a new credit union has already been announced to break ground.
In that same vicinity, Chipotle and Cousins restaurants are going up where a Fazoli’s used to sit.
“Success breeds success,” said Bader. “Tenants are seeing it. Their brokers are by all the time. There are groups out there that are looking to do deals and they see it and they say wow, we haven’t considered this area in 20 years because it was dead and now it’s being brought back to life.”
There’s also plans to make the area more maneuverable for drivers and pedestrians. East Town Way is going to be extended through the parking lot right up to the former mall and new walkways are being planned for people coming from the neighborhoods north of Mason Street.
“The idea is to truly make it walkable, so if you live nearby you can easily walk in here, walk around, and walk home,” said Bader.
Bader says the work on Hobby Lobby will likely begin next year.
American Tent, a tent manufacturer, will soon occupy the back half of the mall building.
Shoreline Credit Union, Chipotle, and Cousins will all open next spring or summer.