Originally published by WISN 12.
A week after a last-second agreement to put the demolition of Northridge Mall on hold for a potential new buyer, WISN 12 News got an exclusive look inside the long abandoned mall and the work being done to secure it.
Phoenix Investors LLC said it’s in a pre-purchase agreement, during which it will need to show Milwaukee County Judge William Sosnay it’s doing its due diligence in securing and taking beginning steps in renovating the Northridge Mall property.
“The Phoenix team thinks this is a normal challenge for them that they always accomplish,” said Phoenix Investors LLC consultant, Buddy Julius. “These are the types of projects, and bigger in scale, that they’ve achieved nationally.”
Phoenix is known for taking on renovation projects like the former Lowe’s at Midtown Center and the former J.C. Penney distribution center in Wauwatosa.
“We want to basically bring it back to the greatest length of life that we can, which is how do we repurpose that property? That is our assignment right now,” Julius said. “How do we make this the best property for this community in the generations going forward?”
WISN 12 News crews captured broken glass, graffiti and various other vandalism while walking inside the mall on Friday.
Phoenix crews were busy re-boarding up the windows outside and painting over some of the graffiti.
“On Monday, we had a team of 16 contractors here and we walked them through,” said Beth Rummel, Phoenix’s property manager. “Today, the crew you see inside is doing core samples of the floors, so we’re testing the strength of the floors and the depth.”
Rummel said they’ve installed about 40 temporary motion detector LED lights around the property, surveillance cameras with audio warnings, about 4,000 linear feet of fencing and cleared away the overgrown brush to allow for 24-hour security to patrol and watch over the mall.
The company provided surveillance footage of scaring away a group of people possibly trying to break into the mall on Thursday, demonstrating the effectiveness of their security system.
“We’ve only had the property less than a week and we’re making a rapid turn,” Julius said.
Phoenix will need to continue their work to convince Judge Sosnay to let them buy the property. Last week, he delayed a ruling on their purchase because of a current raze order on the empty mall, that he’s not ready to reverse.
The city of Milwaukee believes demolition is preferable to redevelopment and is ready to go with bulldozers if the property is transferred over to them. The city previously estimated it would cost between $10 and $12 million to demolish and properly dispose of hazardous materials.
“I can’t stress enough, whether it’s fires, whether it’s the safety concerns of folks going in there, the fact that somebody died in this building, it has to end,” said Nick DeSiato, Chief of Staff for Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson.
Since the current owners of the mall did not appear in court last week, they’re now in contempt of court. Judge Sosnay is ordering U.S. Black Spruce Enterprises to pay $1,000 every day they fail to appear. They’re already paying $2,000 a day for failing to clean up and secure the property.
All parties involved are due back in court for another hearing on April 14.
In the meantime, Phoenix officials said the massive building has good bones and lots of potential. Julius did not provide an estimate as to how long it would take or how much it would cost to renovate the abandoned mall, nor did he provide details as to what the company wants to ultimately do with it.
“We certainly didn’t step into this property without seeing the value of it,” Julius said. “There’s certainly challenges, but we look forward to working with the city and finding the greatest result for it.”