MILWAUKEE - The city of Milwaukee says the owner of Northridge Mall continues to be in violation of the agreement to secure and maintain the shuttered and crumbling property, according to newly filed court documents.
"It is obvious from these reports and photos that US Black Spruce is non-compliant for all the matters listed in the agreement," wrote Assistant City Attorney Theresa Montag in a letter to Milwaukee County Judge William Sosnay on Aug. 22.
A message to an attorney representing Black Spruce was not immediately returned.
Montag filed three inspection reports and a copy of an agreement signed off by US Black Spruce Enterprise’s owner and a Brookfield real estate management contractor. The $8,000 per month agreement between Black Spruce’s Li Yang and Harbin Realty’s Guangfu Jia, signed Aug. 19, calls for the property to be:
- Monitored by security around the clock
- Ensure entrances are locked,
- No trespassing signs installed
- Monitor camera systems
- Log traffic on the property
- Kick out anyone found trespassing
- Keep incident reports
- Make repairs to doors and fencing
- Cut back grass and bushes
- Keep parking lots clean
However, those inspections conducted on Aug. 19, 20 and 21, by city inspector Tim Bolger found no security staff were present, 150-200 feet of fencing was missing or damaged with several gates "unsecured, missing or damaged," brush and debris had not been removed – including a boat, and entry points into the property were not secured at the time of inspection.
"There is no 24 hour on-site professional security, the access points have not been secured, the rubbish has not been removed from the property, and the landscaping has not been cut back to the appropriate standards. Lack of compliance with these requirements endanger the community and greatly impact public safety," Montag wrote in the letter.
A fence contractor works to repair the chain link fence at Northridge Mall on August 23, 2022.
On Tuesday, August 23, a fencing contractor worked to repair the chain link fence separating the mall parking lot from W. Granville Station Road on the south side of the property.
Four fires have broken out at the property in the past month. On Aug. 15, Sosnay held Black Spruce in contempt of the agreement it had with the city to secure the property, and ordered it cleaned up and secured by Aug. 19 or face a daily fine of $2,000.
Fire at Milwaukee's former Northridge Mall
Inspectors surveyed the property that day, ahead of the deadline, alongside an attorney for Black Spruce and the Milwaukee Fire Department.
"It would be difficult to tell exactly what has improved. I would have had to scan every inch of this place compared to what I have done prior. It’s difficult for me to say something has been done," Milwaukee Fire Chief Aaron Lipski said Friday, noting the amount of combustible material, broken glass, exposed wires, open holes and pits inside the property.
Vacant Northridge Mall (2020)
"The court order doesn’t speak to the interior conditions," said Lipski. "And I can’t emphasize enough we have faith in the court system that they’re going to continue to push this with as much emphasis as I think is necessary for the safety of my firefighters."
The city issued a raze order for the property in 2019, but Black Spruce fought the order and had it put on hold. The company is delinquent on property tax bills going back to 2018, owing nearly $650,000.
The company and the city are to be in court in October to make arguments on the raze order.