Suspicious fire at Milwaukee's Northridge Mall

Firefighters responded to Milwaukee's old Northridge Mall Sunday afternoon, Dec. 18 around 3 p.m. 

A Milwaukee Fire Department deputy chief said a contractor reported a suspicious fire.

Fire crews were let into the building by the contractor.

The deputy chief said the fire was small, in one of the former planters in the mall. The fire was put out, and there were no injuries.

It was the fourth or fifth fire since summer, the deputy chief said.

Milwaukee police are investigating. 

Judge orders Northridge to be torn town after summer fires

Sunday's fire comes after a judge ordered the owner of the vacant mall to file plans to raze the property. Black Spruce, the mall's owner, had until mid-November to do so and did not.

Black Spruce is appealing the judge's decision to enforce the city's raze order and asked that it be paused. Milwaukee County Judge William Sosnay said he would not, ordering the plan to be put forward while also ordering Black Spruce to pay $187,000 in fines for not securing the property.

Photos from a city inspection report filed on Nov. 7, show graffiti, broken boarded-up doors, broken windows and brush. Black Spruce is also being fined $2,000 per day for not securing the property. 

Black Spruce has outstanding tax bills for the properties that date back to 2018 and total hundreds of thousands of dollars. Attorneys that first represented the company in the original appeal case from 2019 are suing for nonpayment, claiming they are owed more than $150,000. 

Judge Sosnay enforced the raze orders in early October. Milwaukee issued the raze orders in 2019. Black Spruce sued the city to block the orders, held up in appeals ever since. Judge Sosnay dismissed Black Spruce's petition for a restraining order against Milwaukee to halt the city's raze orders, saying Northridge needs to be torn down.

Northridge Mall property, Milwaukee

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Back in August, Milwaukee Fire Chief Aaron Lipski called out the owner for not following a court order to maintain and keep the building secure. 

"If I sound irritated tonight, then you’re hearing me," said Lipski on Aug. 10, at the scene of the fourth Northridge fire in three-plus weeks. "These men and these women have to go into this building, repeatedly, putting their lives in extreme risk because it has not been properly secured."

After that August hearing, Judge Sosnay found Black Spruce in contempt and ordered the owners to secure the building or pay the daily fine.

The mall opened 40 years ago, but it closed in 2003. In early June 2019, Black Spruce released renderings with plans to turn the property into an Asian market, hoping to reopen the facility in spring 2021, but those plans never materialized.

The next court hearing is scheduled for Monday morning. Online court records show additional inspection reports filed in recent weeks.