The Wimmer family is in its sixth generation of developing buildings in southeast Wisconsin, but its more than $120 million Poplar Creek Town Center represents a few firsts for the Wimmers.
Most significantly, the 25-acre project in the town of Brookfield is a true town center, mixing two hotels with almost 440 new apartments, storefronts and office space. While Wimmer Communities has built all of those separately in its past projects, this is its first time putting them all together and programming a neighborhood, said Nick Wimmer, vice president of project development for the Hales Corners real estate firm.
The location at the busy corner of North Barker and West Bluemound roads prompted company officials to plan for a mix of activities and businesses, instead of only building apartments like it has with other projects in Brookfield.
“We saw an opportunity to have some successful retail and office, and those uses could serve the residential community here,” Wimmer said. “We really want it to feel like an active and vibrant neighborhood that has a number of different uses.”
To that end, Wimmer is building the largest amenity clubhouse it’s ever done for an apartment project. At 13,500 square feet, it will neighbor an outdoor pool as well as park space where property manager Meagan Kaska is organizing outdoor movies, concerts and other events for residents.
“We’ve got a schedule in the planning stages for small to large-scale events,” she said. “Small events such as a book club or game nights, up to movie nights, concerts, wine tastings and pet-friendly events like yappy hour.”
Poplar Creek Town Center broke ground last year, and will have buildings opening in the second half of 2024. Those include a building holding the corner of Barker and Bluemound roads with a 104-room Residence Inn by Marriott and 121-room Courtyard by Marriott. That building includes 14,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space that Wimmer said could be filled with restaurants and neighborhood retailers, setting it apart from the larger-scale stores across the street at the Corners of Brookfield.
The building also will have 15,000 square feet of office space.
Five new apartment buildings are also planned for the town center. Three are already underway, including one with 118 units connected to the future clubhouse. Another 187 apartments are rising in two buildings near Barker Road.
Those join 138 apartments in the Poplar Creek buildings Wimmer Communities developed before acquiring land for its town center project. Three of Wimmer’s completed apartment developments in Brookfield have been holding occupancy levels of around 98% since they opened.
“There is certainly a great market for this type of community in the Brookfield area,” Wimmer said.
Two more apartment buildings will be added to the town center in future phases. One along Barker Road will have 35 larger apartments, and another is mapped out along Bluemound Road. With 99 apartments and 15,000 square feet of retail space, that building will break ground in 2025 because contractors are using that land as a staging area.
“There’s been our mountain of fill soil and recycled aggregate that we’ve been using to build the rest of the project,” Wimmer said.
Wimmer Communities has been considering a project at that corner dating to 2015, when it acquired vacant land for its first round of Poplar Creek apartments and a store for Craig Husar’s Fine Diamonds. The company was able to assemble several properties and acquire the site between 2020 and 2021. Buildings that previously stood there include Elite Sports Clubs, a former Motel 6, The Quality Inn and Bullwinkle’s restaurant.
“At the beginning, we weren’t so sure there was going to be the ability to acquire the other sites, but we made connections with all of those owners and kept lines of communication open over the years,” Wimmer said. “As time went on, their strategies and goals changed.”
Wimmer family members provided the up-front equity investment to finance the development. The company received construction loans from Associated Bank, Johnson Financial and Old National Bank for the town centers’ buildings. The town of Brookfield also approved a tax incremental financing district that will refund some property taxes generated by the town center to Wimmer Communities.
Wimmer said the company would pursue more town center-style developments in the future, depending on whether it finds the right kinds of properties. It currently owns apartments that provide housing for about 7,000 people.
“We hope so, certainly it comes down to the right location and the right assembly of land,” Wimmer said. “This is certainly another step in our portfolio.”