City leaders, neighbors hopeful as Penzeys works to acquire Northridge Mall

MILWAUKEE -- Penzeys Spices is outgrowing its Wauwatosa location and looking to expand -- potentially into the Northridge Mall space that has sat vacant since 2003.

Many, including neighbor Chuck Floading consider Northridge Mall a lingering eyesore on the city's northwest side.

"It almost looks haunted," Floading said.

However, on the inside, the mall still looks pretty good. Media got an inside look earlier this year, and Milwaukee leaders say it was this coverage that got the attention of Bill Penzey -- the owner of Penzeys Spices.

Rocky Marcoux is the head of Brown Deer City Development. He says Penzeys has already taken financial steps to acquire ownership of the mall, which is currently in foreclosure. He also believes Bill Penzey plans to keep some of the current infrastructure and potentially use the facility for warehouse, distribution and retail space.

"In order to accomplish something like that, somebody has to have the drive and vision to pull it off, and I think Bill Penzey's the guy," Marcoux said.

For Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, spicing up Northridge Mall's abandoned lot with a business that cares about its community is a recipe for success.

"He's talked about his roots in business on 33rd and Galena and how much he appreciates the people in this community and has an understanding of them, but he's also a very smart business man," Mayor Barrett said.

The finished product is something neighbors like Floading cannot wait to see.

"We like Penzeys. (It will) be great to have one nice and close and to be able to see the space get used," Floading said.

Back in 2008, the mall was purchased by a developer who was going to turn the building into a Chinese mall -- but that owner hasn't paid the bills in over a year.

Now, Penzeys is going through the red tape to try to obtain ownership of the facility, which could take some time. This is not yet a done deal, but city leaders say they're hopeful.

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