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Sheboygan loans $375k for ShopKo redevelopment

The former ShopKo store in Sheboygan could be redeveloped
The former ShopKo store in Sheboygan could be redeveloped

SHEBOYGAN — Two stores could be opening in the former ShopKo on Sheboygan’s west side.

On Thursday, the Redevelopment Authority approved a $375,000 economic development loan to be provided to Dallas-based Netstreit, contingent on 15 new jobs being created. The company plans to convert the vacant 97,910-square-foot big box store into two retail spaces. Potential tenants have not been disclosed yet according to Chad Pelishek, the city’s Director of Planning and Development.

The owner of the property is Mid-America. ShopKo closed their Sheboygan store in May 2019 after the company filed for bankruptcy earlier that year. When the Sheboygan ShopKo opened in October 1993, the chain operated 116 stores in 14 states and had sales of $1.7 billion in 1992. The store, located across the street from Memorial Mall, employed as many as 150 workers. The workforce at the store was reduced over the years and 53 people were employed there in February 2019.

Netstreit, a real estate investment trust company, proposed a similar plan for the shuttered ShopKo store in Fond du Lac. Those plans call for a Hobby Lobby to open in one of those two retail spaces.

In 1992, ShopKo purchased 15-acres of land in the Town of Sheboygan at the southwest corner of the South Taylor Drive Beltline and Erie Avenue. The land was annexed into the City of Sheboygan. Had the plan to build ShopKo fell through, the land would be de-annexed and given back to the town. Ginger Forner, a resident of Cleveland at the time, was concerned in February 1993 that ShopKo could put the nearby Prange-Way store out of business. Two years later in October 1995, Prange-Way would file for bankruptcy and would close in early 1996.

Construction started on the store in March 1993.

Site of mass casualty incident

Just weeks after construction began on the ShopKo store in the Taylor Park neighborhood, one worker was killed and six others were severely injured when a wall collapsed on April 9, 1993. Ten masons were laying cement blocks on a 30-foot-high, 100-foot long west wall of the building when the top 12 feet came tumbling down. Workers were buried in the rubble and had to be dug out by dozens of first responders including off-duty Sheboygan police officers while hundreds of on-lookers watched the rescue unfold.

A plaque honoring Joel Nack, who was killed that day, along with the six injured bricklayers was placed at the bottom of the United States flag pole near the front entrance of the store. The plaque remains there as of September 16th.

Land could have been a zoo and rec complex

In 2011, the late Mayor Bob Ryan was able to do something that the City of Sheboygan didn’t do 36 years earlier: purchase the Schuchardt Farm property and annex the land from the Town of Sheboygan. However, his vision was different than what was first proposed in 1974. He had sought to develop the land into an office park that included retail and green space.

A zoo, golf course, swimming pool was part of a proposed recreational complex on the Schuchardt Farm property along the Taylor Drive Beltline in Sheboygan.

In 1974, the Sheboygan County Zoological Society proposed building a 255-acre recreational complex on the Schuchardt Farm property, which included land ShopKo would eventually be built on. The zoological society was largely responsible for operating the Vollrath Park Zoo at the time. Opinions on the proposal were reportedly negative with one man contending that Milwaukee had one of the best zoos. Lester Schuchardt, who owned the land, died in May 1974 and the zoo was closed in 1976 by an order of the Common Council.

In 1981, the property would be an option for a proposed aquatic center featuring a wave-action pool, 300-foot water slides and boating. In 1985, Sheboygan County had considered purchasing the land but never did.

Finally in 2011 under the leadership of Mayor Ryan, the City of Sheboygan acquired the property for $2 million with hopes to develop it into an office park. In 2016, the John Michael Kohler Arts Center purchased 39 acres of the property for $1.1 million while the remaining property was sold to the Sheboygan-based Glacial Lakes Conservancy. The art museum would construct the $40 million 56,000-square-foot Art Preserve which opened this year.

The boundaries of the Schuchardt Farm property went from Erie Avenue to the north, the Taylor Drive Beltline to the east, County Road PP (Indiana Avenue) to the south and the Town of Sheboygan Greendale neighborhood to the west. The farm also extended east to the area that is now the Taylor Heights Shopping Center and home to Festival Foods.