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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.”

Good neighbors

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.

Old to new | New to old
Apr 2, 2013 11:41 am
 Posted by  Anonymous

Perhaps we should focus on raising the much needed funds to be able to build the Sun Prairie Ice Rink for the Sun Prairie Hockey players and Figure Skating instead of a shopping center. This has been in the works for years and are still $700,000 short of the goal!
If you have money to invest, the ICE RINK would be a great place to start!

Jun 18, 2013 07:15 am
 Posted by  Anonymous

I would love to see a Cost Plus World Market move into this area!

Jun 25, 2013 06:21 am
 Posted by  Anonymous

Anything besides a bank, credit union, dentist, eye care would be highly beneficial to this new area. How about a decent restaurant in Sun Prairie? Or a nice bar with great food..aka much like Alchemy. Draw the foot traffic!

Jul 2, 2013 01:04 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

Still waiting for the new Marcus Theatre to get build after 3+ years of waiting. But overall love the direction this area is going. Hoping a really nice resturant comes to the area along with a Fleet Feet or something along those lines. Tons of running and biking trails in Sun Prairie so would love to see Fleet Feet expand to the east side.

Aug 26, 2013 12:59 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

We need upscale dining options, not fast food. Although I'm excited about which wich.....Something Madison doesn't have like Cheesecake Factory, Buca, or a steakhouse perhaps which is hard to find on the east side.

Oct 3, 2014 09:16 am
 Posted by  Anonymous

The Cheesecake Factory would actually bring people to Sun Prairie-I live there and that is the only reason I go to Sun Prairie. We have 1 nice restaurant with quality food - Buck & Honeys - give people a reason to go there. The Cheesecake Factory is a great restaurant-not just the deserts - the food is execellent. Filling Prairie Lakes with fast food isn't going to get shoppers from the south and west side of Madison over here. Put 1 thing in Sun Prairie that you can't get anywhere else in Madison and they will show up.

Oct 2, 2017 10:52 pm
 Posted by  TreeHugger

Totally agree with the comments about getting better restaurants in Sun Prairie! Too many junk and fast food restaurants. If I want a nice meal, I drive into Madison. Buck and Honey's is good, but getting too expensive for me. I still can't believe I have lived here in SP for 11 years and there still is no where to shop for professional clothes (Chico's or another one) or cool bars with outdoor seating and quality restaurants. Buca di Beppo should move here. They would do GREAT business as it is family oriented, same with Cheesecake Factory or what about a local, Italian or Greek restaurant that had healthy food choices. NO more chain fast food. Sun Prairie is really for families and not for single, middle-aged professionals wanting to meet other people. If you have young kids, this city is for you, if not, move to Middleton or Madison. I am seriously considering it as SP property taxes are outrageous! So is Madison and Middleton, but at least there are more things to do than in boring SP.

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