By LaKeshia N. Myers
I, like most people who grew up on the far northwest side of Milwaukee, remember Northridge mall. It was a bustling place, full of stores and other shopping and entertainment. It was chic, and it was neatly positioned on my side of town—a neighborhood filled with hardworking middle and upper middle-income homeowners. It was a beacon of our neighborhood, until it wasn’t.
When the mall closed its doors in 2003, we slowly (but surely) felt its decline. Because of Northridge’s closure, we were left with two nearly forgotten strip malls, and a concrete reminder of what had been. For ten years, Northridge stood still. Inside, it was a neatly preserved time capsule of the 90s and early 2000s. But that’s when we learned that the Chinese investment group Black Spruce, had failed to pay WE Energies. As a neighborhood we were outraged that a business was given such lenience, when the same would not (and is not) granted to individual families in the city.
The irresponsibility of Black Spruce didn’t stop there—after failing to pay for power and gas, those utilities were shuttered, and the building has since fallen further into disrepair and decay. It has been nearly twenty years and absolutely nothing has been done with the property. The building sits as a rotting reminder that because of foreign investors, our neighborhood cannot move forward. We want to move forward—we have been ready.
Twenty years with no progress is an abomination. It is an errant display of disrespect to the hardworking homeowners who call the Northwest side home. The city of Milwaukee agrees, it initiated a raze order in 2019. But even as the building lay crumbling from neglect, Black Spruce has chosen to delay the demolition of Northridge by challenging the raze order in court.
And now, Northridge has turned into an arsonist’s playground. Four fires within the span of three weeks. With the recent activities, Northridge has become a death trap for firefighters due to the building’s insecurity. The blame lay squarely at the feet of Black Spruce—they have continued to disrespect process and the Granville community, and after twenty years, its time for them to bow out and let Northridge go. We have already started to rebound economically and reimagine our neighborhood. By razing the Northridge property, we can help stabilize neighboring businesses (such as Menard’s which abuts the Northridge property) and invite new development ideas with investors that have the acumen and the ability to utilize the space.
I am working diligently with city and state officials to expedite the process to rid us of the blight and eyesore that once was our beloved Northridge Mall.