Poised for growth: Prairie Lakes developers still dreaming big in Sun Prairie
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Talk to Chad Fedler, the energetic VP of Prairie Development, about his company’s ambitious commercial project at the U.S. 151/County C interchange and he may eventually get around to telling you what won’t be part of the shopping center.
“When we first laid this out – you like to dream big, right? – one of the thoughts I had was, wouldn’t it be cool if you did an ice-skating rink?” said Fedler. “With the pine trees in the wintertime, you could decorate them, you could make it the center focus of the shopping center. You’d have a place for people to go, and you would have a lot of activity.”
Eventually, Fedler says, reality intruded on those plans when it became clear that the cost would be prohibitive. For one thing, the rink would have required a refrigerated sheet of ice, rather than just a flooded pool – and the developers would have had to throw in a Zamboni for good measure in order to keep the ice smooth and skateable.
“We’ve seen a lot of improvement really in the last six months as far as level of interest in people looking to do deals.” – Chad Fedler, Prairie Development
“All of a sudden it was a half-million-dollar idea, and it just wasn’t practical,” said Fedler.
So while the company’s decision to abandon that particular dream may mean that Prairie Lakes won’t exactly be Rockefeller Center, the dream itself could be seen as a signal to shoppers that big things are nevertheless coming. Chad Fedler, as well as the two principal partners in the venture, Ron Fedler (Chad’s father) and Jerry Connery, are thinking big, and they’re not merely focused on squeezing as many retailers as they can onto this commercially fertile piece of Sun Prairie farmland.
Indeed, throughout the course of a 30-minute interview, Fedler punctuated his answers with words like “character” and “aesthetic appeal” so often, you’d think he was planning a World’s Fair instead of a run-of-the mill shopping center. But as he’d likely be the first to tell you, that’s just the point. The space he envisions won’t be run-of-the-mill. Indeed, his excitement about the development’s landscaping and courtyard elements is as clear an indication as any that he’s not simply interested in another sprawling concrete jungle of big boxes and strip-mall retailers.
Case in point: The company has already invested $10 million in landscaping and infrastructure. Its signature Shoppes at Prairie Lakes area, which will be surrounded by five anchors (including the already up-and-running Costco, Target, and Woodman’s, as well as a planned-for 17-plex Marcus Theater), will have as its focal point a 14,000-sq.-ft. courtyard featuring a firepit, a waterfall, and a meandering stream beneath a crosswalk.
In addition, the grounds make liberal use of green space, and Fedler sees the wildlife that gathers there as more of a draw than a nuisance.
“Coming here, especially in the spring, summer, and fall, it truly is beautiful,” said Fedler. “So you can come to a center, shop, and get everything you need, but as one customer told me, it’s peaceful when you’re walking around out here. And it’s unique. Look at the Target store, look at the stone elements of it. It’s classy, it’s timeless. We expect users to maintain a high degree of architecture.”
Of course, no Target location is ever going to be confused with Notre Dame Cathedral – nor will Costco be confused with Neiman Marcus – but as big-box retailers and wholesalers go, Target and Costco are considered strong draws, and they offer great potential for co-tenancy. According to Fedler, stores like Woodman’s and Costco regularly bring in shoppers from 50 or 60 miles away, providing the sort of magnetic appeal that will help support the development’s smaller shops. (In Greater Madison’s more socially conscious strongholds, Costco’s reputation as a fair and generous employer also can do nothing but improve the shopping center’s prospects.)
But along with the center’s architectural and landscaping elements, co-tenancy is something that Fedler is keen to keep an eye on.
“One thing that we’ve learned is that there’s various tenants that will attract other co-tenants that you’d like to have,” said Fedler. “Mainly tenants who cater to a clientele that has a higher disposable income. For example, Starbucks [which is located inside the Prairie Lakes Target] is a great coffee purveyor. Are there others that do the same thing in their space? Yes. But there’s something about the Starbucks customer where people will go out of their way to find a Starbucks. It’s almost cultish.
“Why does it matter? Because if people are that willing to seek out a Starbucks, other small retailers want to locate next to that because you need to have disposable income to spend $5 on a coffee drink every day, and also they have brand loyalty and so others want to feed off that. So yes, it matters.”
|While several of the Prairie Lakes development's anchors are in place, the shopping center still has plenty of room to grow.|