Black Spruce Enterprises sues City of Milwaukee in effort to prevent demolition of Northridge Mall

MILWAUKEE -- Black Spruce Enterprises on Friday, Aug. 23 filed a lawsuit against the City of Milwaukee in an effort to stop the planned demolition of the former Northridge Mall.

The lawsuit seeks "temporary and permanent injunctive relief" from Milwaukee County Circuit Court against the City of Milwaukee's raze order for the former mall.

The raze order was issued in April. Black Spruce appealed the raze order to the Standards and Appeals Commission, which affirmed the raze order based on city ordinance, which says demolition is allowed "if the cost of such repairs would exceed 50% of the assessed value," and if repairs are deemed unreasonable, and the building is declared a public nuisance.

The lawsuit said the presumption that repairs were unreasonable was rebuttable, but noted the Standards and Appeals Commission refused to hear evidence regarding this.

Black Spruce received the order denying the appeal from the commission, finding the raze order reasonable, on July 26.

The suit noted that 30 days after a decision from the commission, a company impacted by a raze order can apply to the circuit court for a restraining order to prevent the building from being razed -- which is what Black Spruce has now done.

According to the lawsuit, state statute says while an old or out-of-repair building can be ordered to be razed, the statute says, "if the building can be made safe by reasonable repairs, order the owner to either make the building safe and sanitary, or raze the building, at the owner's option."

The suit noted that the City of Milwaukee adopted alternate provisions in its Code of Ordinances related to the razing of buildings, and "the city has no right to order the razing of a building except pursuant to" state statute and city ordinance. The suit said city ordinance states "all unsafe buildings, structures, or parts thereof that are declared to be a public nuisance, endangering life, limb, health, or property, shall be repaired and made safe, or razed and removed."

The lawsuit alleges "the city violated (state statute) and (city ordinance) because the city did not allow the owner to repair Northridge before issuing the raze order.

According to the lawsuit, the city estimated the cost to raze the buildings at $10 million to $12 million, and "if the buildings are razed, the owner will suffer irreparable harm" because the building cannot be repaired or improved.

Black Spruce asked for the following in the suit:

    The lawsuit said within 20 days, a hearing would be held in circuit court to determine whether the raze order is reasonable.

    The lawsuit indicated the city has 45 days to respond, or the court could grant judgement for the award of money or other legal action requested in the suit.