Can Northridge Mall Rise Again?

Northridge Mall has been the source of many warm and fond memories spanning from my childhood all the way into adulthood.  I was one of the blessed-ones that got to experience Northridge Mall in its heyday as a child with such cool-things as the Children’s Palace, Toys R’ Us, Kay-Bee Toy Stores, Sega Time-Out, and many other awesome-places for kids. You had a plethora of eating places both inside and outside of the mall.  I never actually got to go to the movie-theater inside of Northridge, but that was another one of its staples. I don’t need to go into details about the fall of Northridge Mall but suffice it to say that the sheer fact that it has been closed for almost two decades saddens me.  What makes it even worse is looking at the decay and deterioration of Northridge Mall.  Not just the mall itself, but all the surrounding real-estate as well.  The entire area is DYING.  Crime rates are high, many businesses have left and are still leaving, and neither the current-owners nor the city have come up with a viable-solution to the problem of having the huge piece of our city’s history as such an eyesore and being a virtual decay-factory. Just razing Northridge Mall is not the answer. That is like slapping a band-aid on an artery-cut.  A judge-ruled in May 2020 that the building must be razed because it is a "health-hazard," however crime and poverty are a much-greater "health-hazard" and razing Northridge is not going to fix any of that. The cost of razing the site would be $15 million dollars or more. That's a waste of money. I am willing to bet that the crime-rates in this area increased after the closure of Northridge Mall and surrounding business.  Many people live in this community.  Taking away businesses does not help poverty, but reinforces it.  Not only that, but no one has come up with a logical or tangible-plan for Northridge Mall in 17 years. I seriously doubt anyone is going to choose THAT area to build something from scratch. Not exactly a sound business-investment right now. You have to crawl before you can walk. Besides that, this is the City Of Milwaukee's fault that Northridge got to this state and therefore it is the responsibility of the City of Milwaukee to fix the problem, not an investment-group or some entrepreneur. We tried that and it didn't work. Not too long ago I had to pick up some supplies from the Menard's store at Northridge.  That was my first time going to that location. It didn’t happen to me right away, but after I had been in the store for a few minutes this wave of nostalgia came flooding over me.  That same good feeling that I always had going to Northridge Mall came right back.  That was a sign to me that while Northridge Mall is definitely dying, it is NOT dead just yet.  Maybe it was crying out for my help!  Seriously though, I feel that Northridge Mall can be saved.  I do not agree that it is such a health-hazard that it cannot be renovated. If the City of Milwaukee can magically-find funding for street-cars and other transportation-ventures that are unnecessary and already have more that adequate transportation options available, they can magically-find funding to renovate Northridge mall. Now, I understand that because of the explosion of online-shopping (especially due to the COVID-19 pandemic) that malls are a risky-business these days. Many brick-and-mortar stores were in dire-straits long before the pandemic. Companies like Toys R’ Us, Radio Shack, K-Mart, JCPenney, Sears, etc. are either gone, about to be gone, or hanging onto a string right now. Retail has drastically-changed in the past 5-10 years. More and more people are doing shopping on their smart-phones rather than going into stores to make purchases unless it is something that they have to have right now. I feel that there is a way to make Northridge Mall useful and fun again.  Turn Northridge Mall into a community-center.  Remodel many of the stores into classrooms were people that live in the community can come in to learn new skills that can help them start their own businesses, advance in their current-occupations, or learn skills to improve their everyday life. There are a few nursing homes that are nearby and this could be helpful for them in terms of keeping busy and learning skills to make their lives more-productive.  It’s never too late to start learning.  There are plenty of buildings available that can be turned into an on-site daycare center so that parents will be able to go to classes without being too far from their children.  We would attract vendors to return to Northridge Mall to set up distribution-kiosks in the mall.  Basically, instead of having a store where people browse, have kiosks set up where customers can cycle-through inventory, see what is in stock, and make a purchase there.  Or, make the purchase online and them pick up that item when they are ready.  This would greatly cut down on the overhead-expenses of a store.  Some places like McDonald’s and GameStop are already implementing these features into their business-model.  This would not work so much for clothing stores, but most general-merchandise stores it should work.  The movie-theater could be used as lecture-halls and for guest speakers. The food-court would reopen as a contemporary-café with free Wi-Fi. By making Northridge Mall into a community-center with elements of a mall, this helps to retain the nostalgia of what Northridge Mall was, while updating it for the future and beyond.  More people acquiring the skills they need to start businesses of their own or to advance in their current work-place will allow them to have more money to spend. More money to spend will increase the need to have more places to spend that money, and having more places for that money to be spent will require more people to work at those places, thus having more people with money to spend in that community, and the process eventually becomes self-sustaining.

This is how you invest in the community and how you rehabilitate it.  Will crime completely go away?  No, of course not.  Will it decrease?  Yes, I believe so.  

Having more people with more chances at success and having access to free-skills being taught and free-resources will help people who just want to make an honest-living feel like they actually have a shot to make it in this world.  This will also help to expose and isolate those people who have no interest in making themselves better eliminating a lot of excuses.  This is a major-project idea and I’m sure that there is a mountain of red-tape to get something like this into a reality, but I feel that in the current-climate that we are in this is the perfect-time for something like this.  Just a thought. 

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