Auto Parts Chain Leases Former Blockbuster Building

Reposted from Wauwatosa Patch February 4 article, Auto Parts Chain Leases Former Blockbuster Building.

O’Reilly Auto Parts has signed a 15-year lease for the former Blockbuster building at 6102 W. North Ave., city officials and neighborhood representatives learned Friday.

A group including several Common Council members, the city administrator, the economic development director and members of the East Tosa Alliance met with the property’s owner and representatives Friday morning to discuss the future of the site, according to two aldermen who were present.

But after a conversation about fitting any potential use into the city’s comprehensive plan, they said, owner Dan Cohen of Mid-America Real Estate announced that the lease with O’Reilly had already been signed.

Ald. Linda Nikcevich said in an e-mail that Cohen told the group he had been working on alternate plans for the Blockbuster site since 2007 and that O’Reilly was the only business that had wanted it.

When Blockbuster vacated the premises in December without notice, Nikcevich said, Cohen and O’Reilly were already prepared to move ahead with a lease.

Nikcevich and Ald. Bobby Pantuso, who also attended the meeting, were concerned, though, that the fast turnaround of the property did not take into account the city’s vision for the area.

Between 2007 and the present, she said, the city had adopted the North Avenue Plan to implement a $5.4 million, 15-year vision for an enlivened business district. However, she said, Cohen told the group he was not even aware of the existence of the redevelopment plan.

“This is a conditional use that could be approved for the space with restrictions, but not a preferred use of the property,” Nikcevich wrote.

Pantuso concurred, saying in an interview that while any solid, long-term tenant was better than a long-term vacancy, an auto parts business was not what East Tosa had hoped for on the Blockbuster site.

Neighborhood organizers who did the groundwork in developing the North Avenue Plan have long looked at the Blockbuster location as a potential anchor for the east end of the district in Wauwatosa.

It had always been hoped, he said, that attracting a destination dining establishment or up-scale mixed-use development there could be the impetus for a revival of sorts along the avenue.

“I think we could have done better than an auto parts store,” Pantuso said.

Cohen could not be reached for comment.

O’Reilly’s… Oh, Really?

Reposted from Wauwatosa Patch. 

By Bobby Pantuso, alderman

Recently, you may have noticed that the Blockbuster building on 61st Street and North Avenue became vacant. Many people wondered what might be coming next.

As it turns out, it is an auto parts store.

Everyone living in East Tosa has their own vision of what they would like North Avenue to look like, to be like, to feel like. My own vision for North Avenue starts with… well, North Avenue.

Not the one of today but the one from 30 years ago, when I was a kid growing up in East Tosa and hanging out on and frequenting the shops on North Avenue.

The second infusion to my vision of North Avenue is Brady Street on the East Side of Milwaukee; a walkable stretch of urban street filled with eclectic shops. Merge those together and you get a taste of MY vision.

Putting everyone’s vision together and producing a common vision was no small task. Through the efforts of many, over a period of a few years, a great document was formed.

That document sits in my home office, and I commonly refer to it as “The Game Plan.” I refer to it frequently. I’ve printed copies and mailed them to people. I’ve linked to it in emails more times than you can imagine. I have shared it.

As I look through the game plan I see myself walking down North Avenue, stopping, shopping, talking, people watching. It is where I want to be and I want to share it. We share because we are proud. “Here try this cake I made… Try this coffee I bought… walk down this street I helped create.

North Avenue needs to be not just a street but a place and a destination. There needs to be a look, a feel, a sense, a place we share.

Many East Tosans wondered what “the plan” called for. It quickly became known that the next occupant of the Blockbuser site might be a national chain auto parts store…sigh. Really? That’s the best you could do?… sigh.

Then as we REALLY thought about it we envisioned the auto parts store we already have just two blocks away. The parking lot is covered in oil and usually trash. People are there at all hours with the hood up, filling fluids, changing sparkplugs, batteries. They try starting their cars, they rev the engine, they play their music loud while they do so. They loiter…..sigh.

It has become apparent that we are getting this auto parts store, the lease has been signed and there is no turning back. It is up to us now to stop the parking lot from becoming an outdoor auto shop, an eyesore.

What if this becomes a place we avoid? What if we start to avoid the places nearby? What if we are no longer proud and we don’t want to share?

This was never in my vision. It wasn’t in anybody’s.