The city of South Milwaukee is suing the owner of Sunrise Plaza, arguing code violations and a lack of maintenance violate a 2001 development agreement that included city money to redevelop the property.
“All you have to do is drive by and see it and you’ll see it suffers from even the most basic maintenance issues,” said South Milwaukee mayor Erik Brooks. “We’re at the point now where we’re not going to take that.”
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The strip mall is located at 2410 10th Ave. Brooks described it as a high-profile property for the city with other high-profile businesses in the area. Two banks are located in outlots, the city fire department is just east and there are apartments to the south. He acknowledged the property has had problem owners and other issues in the past, but added the current owners knew what they were getting into when they purchased the property.
The property is owned by Chicago-based Carol Investment Corp. The corporation is registered in Nevada and lists Steven Dukatt as president. Dukatt did not immediately return a message seeking comment on the case.
South Milwaukee’s lawsuit, filed in Milwaukee County Circuit Court, alleges the property is kept in an unsafe and dilapidated condition, the parking lot is cracking, riddled with pot holes and has not been sealed or re-striped for more than three years, and the building itself is deteriorating and missing bricks.
Carol Investment was issued citations in May for violating municipal codes related to driveways and general exterior structure.
The lawsuit also argues the current state of the property violates parts of the developer's agreement requiring landscaping maintenance and the sealing and restriping of the parking lot every three years. The agreement also made $110,000 in city money available as an incentive in 2001.
The city is seeking an order forcing compliance with city ordinances or the potential appointment of a receiver to “take charge of the premises, make necessary repairs, collect rents to offset the costs of repairs and/or sell the premises at sheriff’s sale.”
Brooks said ideally the court action will compel compliance with the city’s orders, but he added that if property owners do not want to invest they could at least sell to someone who will.
He added that South Milwaukee has increased its emphasis on code enforcement and he’s willing to continue taking legal action if necessary.
“I don’t want to overuse this tool,” he said before adding the city has “certainly been more willing than ever to step up and take this step.”
Brooks also acknowledged the city has to work to find the right owners for properties and to provide tools and incentives to those who do want to invest in what they own.
“You’re not going to redevelop your city based on punitive measures alone,” he said.