A lawyer for the Chinese firm that owns most of the former Northridge Mall says a meeting will be held with city of Milwaukee officials in a couple of weeks. The company says its aim will be to convince the city not to go ahead with plans to have the mall buildings torn down. The property owner has just released a new document in the case.
That comes after Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett announced the condemnation plans in April, following years of vandalism and decay at the huge Northridge property. The mall went out of business in 2003.
At a town hall meeting in the northwest part of the city in early May, neighbors made it clear they want action. A resident, who gave her name as Connie, said it's not easy living near the site.
"Northridge has been an eyesore for a lot of people. I've been living in this area for about 18 years. And, not only is it an eyesore and a safety thing, but crime has gone up big time," she said.
Another Northridge-area resident, who gave her name as Sarah, said she wants the Barrett administration to be extremely firm with the property owners.
"I think enough is enough. It's been too long. They have claimed their space here and done nothing with it. I think it's preventing the redevelopment of this area," Sarah said.
A Madison-based attorney for Black Spruce Enterprise Group, the Chinese firm that owns most of Northridge, says his client opposes the condemnation, also called a Raze Order. Eric Hatchell declined an interview with WUWM. But in a letter he filed with the city last Friday, Hatchell wrote that Black Spruce has been working on a redevelopment plan for the Northridge property and wants to be a partner in city redevelopment efforts of the far northwest side. The letter says improvements to Northridge will start later this year and there are tentative plans to reopen the facility in two years.
Mayor Barrett told residents at this month’s town hall meeting that he hopes the firm isn't just trying to delay demolition.
"There have been lawsuits galore to tie these things up for years. So, we don't know what's going to happen here. We don't know how much we want to litigate this. But again, I'm trying to give us hope here," Barrett told the audience.
Alderwoman Chantia Lewis, who represents the Northridge area, says proof is needed to support hope.
"Even if they come back and say we're gonna do this, we're not going to accept that without a real plan. Because I've heard of the, and I've seen, 'This is what we're going to do.' If they're coming back and saying, 'No, we absolutely want to develop, ' we're going to say, 'OK, great. Where's the money?' We want some earnest money, so we as a community can trust, even what you're trying to tell us," Lewis said.
If the upcoming meeting doesn't produce an agreement, and if Black Spruce then goes ahead with fighting the condemnation order, a panel of mayoral appointees called the Standards and Appeals Commission could hear the case this summer.
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