MILWAUKEE -- The former Northridge Mall near 76th and Brown Deer Road will be demolished -- torn down in 20 days -- because city leaders said it isn't safe. The walls are failing and the entire roof needs to be replaced. The owners won't secure the building, and city officials said they don't have the resources to keep people out.
"This is a sad story. There is no other way to describe Northridge than a sad story," said Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.
Mayor Barrett said the current owners, a Chinese investment group, have not only failed to repair and secure the property, they also haven't been in contact with the city for months.
"Today we are saying, 'No more,'" said Milwaukee Alderwoman Chantia Lewis, who noted trespassing, vandalism and theft have been on the rise since December 2017 -- when a YouTube star filmed a video inside the vacant building.
"That was the straw. Everyone has been trying to come in and replicate that. We've seen a lot more tagging and vandalism," said Alderwoman Lewis.
The Department of Neighborhood Services issued three raze orders to the owners of the property, citing the vandalized, dilapidated and out of repair property. According to the DNS and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, the work required to repair the building far exceeds the value of the building.
DNS officials issued this statement:
"An inspection of the masonry commercial building located at the above address has revealed a building and appurtenances, and electrical, plumbing and mechanical systems (collectively, "the building") that are vandalized, dilapidated and out of repair."
"It has been determined that the cost to repair the building exceeds 50 percent of the assessed value of the improvements divided by the ratio of the assessed value to the recommended value as last published by the Wisconsin Department of Revenue for the City of Milwaukee, that such repairs are presumed unreasonable, and therefore, the building must be razed and removed."
The mayor said essentially, nothing has happened on the property for 10 years. Boston Store left in 2003. In 2006, Value City Furniture left. In 2008, it was sold by one Chinese investment group to another.
"Northridge has changed. Northridge changed from being the gem of the north side, to being a challenge. This is now about health and safety issues in the Northridge building. The work required to repair the building far exceeds the value of the building. A legal threshold to raze the building has been met," said Mayor Barrett.
It was sold to the Chinese investors for $6 million with hope of transforming the property -- but that never happened.
The mayor said there are concerns about the health and safety of people who come to the 900,000 square foot property illegally.
"What we have seen here is scrappers of plumbing, electrical, HVAC systems, to the point where our employees believe there is no way to reactivate the building. Eleven years after the latest developers bought this mall, we are demanding action. We are demanding actions for health and wellbeing issues on behalf of the citizens of our city. This is not the route we wanted to go. We would love to see the development," said Mayor Barrett.
The cost of the demolition will fall on the ownership group. If they don't take action, the city will. The cost will be passed onto the owner's property tax bill, which they have been paying.
Alderwoman Lewis issued this statement:
"Today the City of Milwaukee issued a raze or restore order to the owner of the former Northridge Mall building – a move that will lead to the removal of the long-vacant structure."
"This action was long overdue and was pushed forward at my urging, and I am pleased that we will soon say ‘farewell’ to this hulking eyesore."
"The Chinese company that owns the building has refused to secure the building or make repairs, and since 2017 we have seen repeated trespassing and vandalism there. Thieves have stripped the HVAC and plumbing from the building, and it has become a target for graffiti vandals and – in some cases – homeless squatters."
"In other words, the building has become a nuisance that threatens the health and safety of the entire surrounding area."
"According to the Department of Neighborhood Services, it has been determined that the cost to repair the building exceeds 50 percent of the assessed value of the improvements divided by the ratio of the assessed value to the recommended value as last published by the Wisconsin Department of Revenue for the City of Milwaukee, that such repairs are presumed unreasonable, and therefore, the building must be razed and removed."
"For the past two and a half years I have been working to connect developers and investors with the owner of the building, but they refuse to entertain viable proposals that could lead to a better use of the site. This is unacceptable and today we took the necessary step of forcing the demolition of the building."
"Today is a good day and I look forward to eventually seeing the former Northridge site be reborn and become a development that my district and the entire city can be proud of."