Kohl’s is set to move into the former Downtown Boston Store space, a move hailed by the company and city leaders as crucial for the ongoing redevelopment of Westown. The Menomonee Falls-based retailer will renovate the space at the corner of West Wisconsin Avenue and North Vel R. Phillips Avenue that has been empty since Boston Store vacated the property in 2018 after operating there for nearly 125 years.
The store is expected to open in fall 2023.
“We have been part of the community for more than 60 years, but we’ve never had a Downtown presence. Now is the time,” Kohl’s CEO Michelle Gass said. “The space may not look and feel like much right now but it’s going to be completely transformed.”
The store will have a Sephora presence offering a fully immersive beauty experience and a “highly localized assortment” of retail items, including local sports apparel, Gass said.
“I expect that we will be selling a lot of Bucks gear and Brewers gear. I think this will be a fantastic destination for our sports apparel,” she said.
Kohl’s unveiled plans the Downtown store during a press conference inside the stripped-down space on Friday morning.
Chicago-based North Wells Capital LLC purchased the building, which also housed the corporate offices of Bon-Ton Stores Inc., Boston Store’s parent company, for $25 million in 2017. The building, now known as HUB640, is a mixed-use building that also includes office space and loft apartments.
The building is part of The Avenue, formerly known as the Grand Avenue Mall and later the Shops of Grand Avenue.
Kohl’s operates 1,200 stores across the country, many of which are being transformed, Gass said.
“As we are building stores, we are also taking an opportunity to refresh and modernize other stores,” she said.
The Downtown store is part of Kohl’s new growth strategy, which includes building 100 new stores over the next four or five years, Gass said.
“They all will have a smaller footprint than what we have traditionally built,” she said.
The Downtown store will be about 40,000 square feet.
Gass noted that Kohl’s has been testing smaller format stores in various markets to localize product assortment through the use of better data to make it more relevant and cater to the market’s needs.
The smaller size space like that offered by the Downtown store allows Kohl’s to enter previously untapped markets and new neighborhoods that couldn’t support a full-size store, Gass said.
The strategy is also expected to allow Kohl’s to reach younger and more diverse customers, according to the company.
“The new store will be a great amenity for Milwaukee’s residents, for visitors and Downtown employees as they return to in-person work,” Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson said.
The Kohl’s store will add to Westown’s rebirth, Johnson said.
Among other major projects in recent years is the development of Graef USA’s headquarters, which was completed shortly before the pandemic took hold, and the creation of the 3rd St. Market Hall. Both developments are part of The Avenue.
In addition, Milwaukee Tool is building a nearby Downtown office and the area will also be home to a new concert venue and soccer stadium.
Another notable success in injecting life into Westown has been NewWaukee’s Night Market, which has been drawing large crowds this summer to Wisconsin Avenue.