Northridge Mall demolition — maybe — moves closer, thanks to state steering $15 million to Milwaukee
The city of Milwaukee is receiving $15 million that it can use to tear down the former Northridge Mall buildings. The question is when will any removal occur?
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) announced Friday that he is steering $15 million in federal America Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to the city to redevelop the blighted property.
The stores at the former mall on the far north side of Milwaukee closed more than 20 years ago. The buildings largely have been vacant since but have been the site of repeated fires, vandalism, and trespassing, especially in the last few years.
Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson and other city officials held a news conference Friday afternoon outside Northridge to discuss the infusion of taxpayer funds.
Johnson says the former Northridge property is " A danger. It has been a danger for a number of years. It continues to be a danger for our firefighters, as well as trespassers on our property."
But Johnson says he doesn't know when demolition can take place. That's because a Chinese-owned firm, Black Spruce Enterprises, still owns most of the property and has been fighting the city's condemnation plans in court.
One reason demolition costs are so high is that asbestos, used in building construction often as a fire retardant, is a known human carcinogen, and has to be carefully removed.
Even if demolition does occur, Johnson is reluctant to talk about potential new uses for the land. After prodding Friday, the mayor says, "We'll be open to what future possibilities are. We're interested in seeing the highest and best use for this place."
Johnson says surrounding neighborhoods deserve "something more than what was proposed," referring to a plan earlier this year to use the site for industrial storage.
The alderperson for the district surrounding the former Northridge Mall says she also wants to focus on tearing down the roughly 50-year-old buildings. But Laressa Taylor says her constituents want "something that would benefit the entire city."
"Many of the residents talk about having many of the things that many of the other malls would have. From retail, to green space, to entertainment," Taylor says."To mimic what other areas would have, would be a great thing."
Next week, the Milwaukee Common Council will be asked to formally approve a contract with the state so the city can later accept the $15 million.
If the ARPA funds are not used for Northridge demolition, Johnson says he believes the money would return to state or federal coffers.