Bill Penzey giving Northridge property to city of Milwaukee

Redevelopment plans include light industrial

Last updated on May 15th, 2019 at 04:54 pm

The owner of Penzeys Spices is planning to give the former Northridge Mall Boston Store building on Milwaukee’s far northwest side to the city for future redevelopment.

The former 153,000-square-foot department store and parking lot will allow the city to move forward with long-awaited plans to develop the site and its surrounding land.

Northridge Mall, on the far northwest side of Milwaukee, closed in 2003.

The property could be redeveloped into two to three industrial buildings, a sit-down family restaurant and a community commons area, depending on what the market calls for, said Rocky Marcoux, commissioner for the Department of City Development.

The city plans to transfer the property from Penzey Spices owner, William Penzey, by the end of the year.

Northridge Mall, 8110 W. Brown Deer Road, was closed as a shopping center in 2003.

Penzey attempted to buy the mall property out of foreclosure in 2013 from China-based U.S. Black Spruce Enterprise Group Inc. He intended to move the corporate offices of Penzeys Spices from the Town of Brookfield and revitalize the vacant mall into a center for food retail, warehousing and distribution.

The deal fell through when the mall owners paid off their delinquent bills. Penzey instead purchased the Boston Store building in 2013. But the company’s plans for the Northridge site never moved forward.

“Bill has been fabulous from his initial vision, to hanging in there when the Black Spruce group really was not being collaborative at all,” Marcoux said. “Most people would have put the property up for sale, but he believes so much in what we are trying to accomplish.”

Penzey could not immediately be reached for comment.

The long-term vacancy of the former mall has been a barrier to investment along the Brown Deer Road corridor. Marcoux hopes redeveloping the Boston Store site will begin to spur additional redevelopment.

The Grainville area, where the mall is located, has already begun to convert several vacant big box retail spaces into industrial uses.

This summer, Menards Inc. purchased the vacant 60,968-square-foot Pick ‘n Save building on Brown Deer Road for the possible expansion of their existing store. Both buildings are attached to the former Northridge mall complex.

The former Toys “R” Us property at 8825 N. 76th St., was sold in September to an affiliate of Engine & Transmission Exchange, 2727 S. 27th St., which is planning to open a location in the 172,380-square-foot building.

In March, Fox Point-based real estate firm General Capital Group announced plans to purchase the 118,461-square-foot former Target store at 8501 W. Brown Deer Road and redevelop it for industrial tenants. The property had been vacant since Target Corp. closed the store in January 2016.

In February, General Capital Group purchased the former Sam’s Club building at 7701 W. Calumet Road to convert it to industrial space and lease it to Sellars Absorbent Materials, Inc., a local paper towel and wet wipe distributor that was looking for additional space.

Marcoux said all of these examples are encouraging. They also mirror the city’s Granville Strategic Action Plan and Land Use Study released in September, which calls for bringing jobs to the corridor with light industrial uses instead of its historic retail uses.

By gaining control of the Boston Store property and its adjacent parking, the city will also be able to reconstruct the ring road around the mall.

The city will likely reconstruct the roads and add a sidewalk, Marcoux said. Financing for the project is unknown, but the city could create a TIF overlay district.

Under Penzey’s ownership, the Boston Store building has been white boxed and is in good shape, Marcoux said. The city will likely begin marketing the site in early to mid-2018.

“What we are hoping is this spurs some more activity,” Marcoux said. “What Bill has done with this gift is put the city above all else.”

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