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Hilldale Shopping Center owners propose open, outdoor mall

Published On: Jul 11 2013 09:54:46 PM CDT   Updated On: Jul 12 2013 10:21:05 AM CDT

Image courtesy WS Development

MADISON, Wis. -

A popular Madison mall is once again the subject of major renovations.

The owners of Hilldale Shopping Center revealed their proposal at a neighborhood meeting Thursday evening.

WS Development took over the mall less than a year ago and wants to transform the area between Macy's and Metcalfe's Market grocery store into an open mall.

The owner said it was "scary" how many vacant storefronts or stores whose leases are ending soon are in that corridor and proposed filling them with new ones, likely national chains.

That got an audible groan from the audience, but not Annetta Barger.

"Hilldale was the reason we bought at Weston Place because we wanted to be near there," said Barger.

But would an outdoor mall really work well in Wisconsin?

"That's a question they're getting, but apparently this is the trend in malls, something we've seen in various places around the country," said District 11 Alderman Chris Schmidt, who has met with the developers about the project.

"I'm somebody who likes to walk in the mall in the winter because it's a warm space, but certainly in the spring and fall it could be nice," said Barger.

WS Development bought the mall, which was in foreclosure, last June. According to its website, it's one of the largest privately owned retail development firms in the country. It owns about 80 properties, mostly on the East Coast.

It hasn't filed any paperwork at City Hall yet, but Schmidt said it will plan to meet with the Urban Design Commission next and submit something by next month. The owners met with a Development Assistant Team Thursday morning.

There seems to be a lot of interest for the project, even without a concrete timeline or cost, given its early stages.

"It's handled like a rezoning and there will be public hearings at Planning Commission and public hearings at the Common Council," explained Schmidt, who has said he supports the project so far.

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