I recently read an interesting thread on a local Facebook page, asking what is going on with a property on the north side of Fort Atkinson. Specifically, the person who started the thread asked about the former Kmart plaza property.
At one time, said property housed not only Kmart, but also a Radio Shack, and years ago was also home to a Piggly Wiggly. Those businesses are now long gone, and it’s not a stretch to say such business models will probably not be making a comeback in that section of our city.
We would definitely all love to see this section of the city rejuvenated. Since the closing of Kmart in 2014, this area has more or less languished. It has been a topic of conversation between myself, our city manager, and other key individuals.
People want to see something happen in that area. This is a good thing! Sears owns the property, and seems to have gotten more aggressive with it recently, by listing it for sale with an actual listing price ($1.2 million, if you are interested).
I am skeptical that traditional retail will return to this area. Aside from a local family restaurant (I give kudos to them for still being viable in this area!), there are no tenants currently in the Kmart building. Traffic counts are no doubt low…much lower than before the Highway 26 bypass was put in around Fort Atkinson.
Fort Atkinson’s city council recently passed an ordinance creating an Economic Development Commission. This is just a first step…economic rejuvenation of the Kmart area, and other sections of the city, will not occur overnight. This is just a start to what will be a long process.
While it can be easy to focus on the negatives, we have many positive things happening in Fort Atkinson. As I pointed out to someone in the Facebook discussion mentioned earlier, the former Napa building is being remodeled, and will soon be home to a local insurance agency. The former Associated Bank building was recently purchased, and is now home to two successful local businesses. The former 88 Underground (Velvet Lips) location will soon be home to a taproom (check out Bent Kettle’s brews, if you haven’t already!). The north building of the Verlo property (the old creamery building downtown) will soon have two tenants.
Good things are happening…but it’s up to all of us to see that our local economy continues to flourish. Please, shop local whenever you can. Let’s work together to keep Fort Atkinson strong, viable, and growing in 2017!