The effects of Northridge Mall's demise nearly 15 years ago went beyond Milwaukee and also hurt neighboring Brown Deer. Now, the village hopes to reap benefits from a new redevelopment plan at the former mall.
An Aldi grocery store, which opened in Brown Deer just over a year ago, is about one mile east of the former Northridge Mall. Brown Deer officials are happy to hear about the new redevelopment plans at Northridge, which closed nearly 15 years ago.(Photo: Tom Daykin / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
Northridge Mall's closing nearly 15 years ago not only devastated the retail landscape on Milwaukee's far northwest side — it also hurt stores in neighboring Brown Deer.
The community now expects to reap some benefits as part of the former mall is redeveloped.
"It definitely has a major impact," said Nate Piotrowski, Brown Deer's community development director.
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The last store at Northridge, which is north of W. Brown Deer Road and west of N. 76th St., closed in 2003. Part of the mall that once housed a Sears store was later demolished and replaced with a Menards home improvement store and Pick 'n Save supermarket — the latter closing in 2014.
Meanwhile, several other national retailers on W. Brown Deer Road, mainly between N. 76th and N. 91st streets, have shut down.
In recent years, some former big box stores have been redeveloped for light industrial use. That includes ETE Reman Inc.'s headquarters, at a former Walmart, and another ETE Reman facility at a former Toys R Us.
Milwaukee officials on Tuesday unveiled plans to convert the former Northridge Boston Store, and its parking lot, into roughly 300,000 square feet of light industrial space.
William Penzey is giving the building to the city after dropping his plans to convert the entire mall into the headquarters for his company, Penzeys Spices.
The remaining 900,000-square-foot mall is owned by China-based Black Spruce Enterprise Group Inc., which wants to convert Northridge into a trade mart for Asian businesses to sell their good to North American retailers.
Penzeys Spices owner William Penzey is giving the former Northridge Mall Boston Store property to the City of Milwaukee for redevelopment into light industrial space, which could help spur more projects at the adjacent vacant mall. Wochit
Milwaukee officials have given up on the proposal, which has seen no progress, and hope to use the Boston Store redevelopment to spark similar light industrial projects at the main mall property.
For Brown Deer retailers and officials, that's welcome news.
"We're happy to see that something is happening," said Carl Krueger, Brown Deer Village Board president.
Northridge's lingering status as a dead mall has hurt Brown Deer in two ways, Piotrowski said.
There's a spillover effect from the loss of a major shopping attraction, he said. The village's border with Milwaukee is at N. 68th St., about one mile east of Northridge.
Piotrowski said the decline of people shopping in the area likely played a role in the closing of two Brown Deer big-box stores: Lowe's, in 2011; and American TV and Appliance, in 2014.
Also, the empty mall raises concerns among regional and national retailers who are considering Brown Deer as a new location.
"They ask us: Why should we come here?" Piotrowski said.
Village officials and property owners make the case that Brown Deer, positioned between wealthy River Hills, Mequon and middle- and lower-income Milwaukee neighborhoods, is a safe middle-class community whose 12,000 residents want to spend their money at local businesses.
That includes sit-down restaurants and coffee shops, which Brown Deer officials have made a priority to attract.
Scott Lurie has been working with real estate brokerage firm CBRE Inc. to draw either Starbucks or another coffee house chain to a vacant building he owns at 5091 W. Brown Deer Road.
It hasn't been easy, Lurie said. But he believes village officials are taking the right steps to help improve the community's retail areas.
That includes approving the conversion of the former Lowe's into a Walmart discount store and supermarket after the company agreed to an earlier closing time, a noise barrier and other conditions. That store opened in 2014 at 6300 W. Brown Deer Road.
Also, the Village Board in 2015 helped finance the redevelopment of the former American TV site, 6700 W. Brown Deer Road.
That property was sold to the Brown Deer Community Development Authority for $2.6 million.
The building and part of the parking lot were then sold to Pak Technologies Inc. for $2.1 million. That $500,000 difference is being made up through higher property taxes generated by the property's redevelopment.
The village gave Pak $750,000 to help the company convert the building into a chemical products distribution center.
That was financed by the authority selling the parking lot's front portion for $750,000 to Aldi, which built a grocery store there. The Aldi store opened in October 2016 at 6720 W. Brown Deer Road.
Meanwhile, another retail redevelopment could be in the works at the Marketplace of Brown Deer, north of W. Brown Deer Road and east of N. Green Bay Road.
That 400,000-square-foot shopping center, about three miles east of the former Northridge Mall, has added new tenants over the past 18 months.
That includes Ross Dress for Less, Firehouse Subs, Bob's Discount Furniture and Kohl's Off/Aisle.
But the shopping center is dated and has excess parking, Piotrowski said.
DDR Corp., which operates the shopping center, has been considering some renovations, he said.
Village officials are pushing DDR to do something more extensive — perhaps with new stand-alone buildings and apartments, Piotrowski said. Similar new mixed-use developments in the Milwaukee area include Whitestone Station, in Menomonee Falls, and 84 South, in Greenfield.
Such a development at the Marketplace of Brown Deer could include village financing, Piotrowski said.
That project also would be helped by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation's plans to remove the N. Green Bay Road overpass at W. Brown Deer Road and convert it into a surface intersection, Piotrowski and Krueger said.
That would free up additional land at the intersection's northeast corner for the shopping center, and create better access to the property, they said. That work is scheduled for 2022, according to the department.
Executives at Beachwood, Ohio-based DDR didn't respond to a request for comment.Be MKEWho we are. Where we go. What we need to know.
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