Owners of former Northridge Mall appealing raze order

Requests meeting with Milwaukee officials to share redevelopment plans

The Northridge Mall on Milwaukee's northwest side has been closed since 2003.

Last updated on June 24th, 2019 at 02:15 pm

The owners of the former Northridge Mall on Milwaukee’s northwest side are appealing the city’s recent raze orders, according to a letter submitted this week from the group’s attorney.

In early April, the city’s Department of Neighborhood Services issued three orders to raze large portions of the mall, located at 9009 N. Granville Station Road. The basis for the orders was that repairs required to bring the buildings up to code would cost more than 50% of the assessed value of the existing property. City estimates put the cost of repairs at around $6 million, far beyond the $81,000 in assessed value.

The property’s owner, China-based U.S. Black Spruce Enterprise Group Inc., disagrees with the city’s conclusion that the property “can be razed against its wishes or that any repairs that could be made are ‘presumed unreasonable,'” according to a letter, dated April 29, submitted to the city by Eric Hatchell, the attorney representing the ownership group.

Black Spruce will file a formal appeal of the raze orders to the city’s Standards and Appeals Commission. The filing of the appeal will put the city-mandated demolition on hold until the appeal is heard.

The ownership group also offered to sit down with city officials to share the “significant progress” it has made on plans to renovate the property.

“During this meeting, Black Spruce can update the city on its projected timetable and further development plans for the Northridge Property,” the letter states. “Black Spruce wants to work collaboratively with the city and would prefer joint discussion instead of contested litigation regarding whether the city has met the requirements of Wisconsin law allowing it to raze the Northridge property against Black Spruce’s desires.”

When the raze orders were first announced, city officials described the headaches the derelict mall has caused the city over the last several years. Mayor Tom Barrett said he viewed the property as a health and safety issue, rather than an issue related to real estate.

Black Spruce states in its letter to the city that it, too, is frustrated with the vandalism that has occurred at the property, and alleges it has made “significant investment to address these issues,” such as additional private security and maintenance. It is also planning to add security and camera systems.

Located northwest of North 76th Street and West Brown Deer Road, the mall opened in 1972, but has largely sat vacant since the shopping center closed in 2003.

In 2013, Bill Penzey, owner of Penzeys Spices, attempted to buy the mall out of foreclosure, but that deal fell through when the owners paid off their delinquent bills. Penzey had intended to move his company’s corporate offices to that site and turn the area into a center for food retail, warehousing and distribution.

Hatchell declined to provide further comment on the matter.

Alderwoman Chantia Lewis, who represents the former Northridge Mall and surrounding area, is planning to provide an update on the property next week during a community meeting.

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Alex Zank
Alex Zank covers commercial and residential real estate for BizTimes. Alex previously worked for Farm Equipment magazine and also covered statewide construction news at The Daily Reporter. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, where he studied journalism, political science and economics. Having grown up in rural western Wisconsin, Alex loves all things outdoors, including camping, hiking, four-wheeling and hunting.