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Northridge Mall lawsuit continues, trial date for raze order battle set for November

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58)-- The battle between Northridge Mall owners and the City of Milwaukee continued in court Monday over a raze order that was issued in April. Milwaukee city attorneys say the mall is a danger and nuisance. It was closed in 2003 and bought in 2008 by China-based U.S. Black Spruce Enterprise Group, Inc.

Judge William Pocan sided with the City of Milwaukee, limiting the time owners of the Northridge Mall have to present their case if they want to reverse the raze order.

The city argues the Northridge Mall buildings are dangerous, and they say even Milwaukee police officers are wary of going to the vacant property for calls.

”This is a building they do not want to go in, they have no current fire department inspections and they have no idea what to expect when they get in there,” said Nicole Larsen, an attorney with the City of Milwaukee.

Victor Diaz was electrocuted while working on mall property in July. Attorneys for Black Spruce argue it didn’t happen inside the mall.

”He was not inside the buildings, he was accessing a power distribution fuse box outside the building owned by We Energies,” said Mark Foley, an attorney for U.S. Black Spruce Enterprise Group, Inc.  

Even after Diaz’s death, Black Spruce still allowed a contracted air soft gun tournament with hundreds of people inside the mall in September.

Photographer Rachel Semanski was granted access that day.

”It’s a lot more vandalized than it was two years ago,” said Semanski.

Semanski was able to capture pictures and videos of the vandalized mall.

”People are stealing signage and you can’t really recognize what each store is, there’s a bunch of broken glass,” Semanski adds.  

”What we are really advocating for is a hearing as soon as possible so we could bring those issues before the court,” says Larsen.

Attorneys for Black Spruce wanted the trial date to be set for next February to prove the mall could be repaired, adding Black Spruce is taking active steps in upping security, with plans to add cameras and new fencing.

”When the system is fully installed, there will be a professional security firm monitoring 24/7,” said Foley.

The judge didn’t buy Black Spruce’s argument, setting trial to happen in just two weeks.

”In this particular case, I agree with the city,” said Judge William Pocan with Milwaukee County Circuit Court.  

Pocan says that date could be pushed back to January if Black Spruce can follow security guidelines set by city officials in the meantime.

”We’ll be discussing with Black Spruce safety measures that they should be taking to secure the properties,” adds Larsen. “What we really want to prevent is harm to the public.”

A meeting on Friday will determine whether security measures set by the city for Northridge Mall are possible. If so, a January trial date  may be granted by the judge.

For more pictures and videos of Northridge Mall’s interior, click here.

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