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Grand Avenue ownership ready for auction

By Marie Rohde

Milwaukee officials were caught by surprise by the notice of a public auction of all or part interest in the ownership group of the long-struggling Shops of the Grand Avenue.

The auction will be conducted by Five Mile Real Estate at 11 a.m. Oct. 26 at the law offices of Arnold & Porter LLC in New York.

“We were not notified of anything,” said Rocky Marcoux, commissioner of the Department of City Development. “The city attorney is looking at what this means.”

The city has invested tens of millions of dollars in the Grand Avenue mall since it was redeveloped in the early 1980s, Marcoux said. That’s the largest investment the city has made in any property, he said, adding that no further money would be made available to the mall.

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“We have invested a lot of money in the Grand Avenue, and it is a beautiful building, impeccable and safe,” Marcoux said. “But I don’t think it can continue as retail, at least on the second floor.”

The city investment was appropriate, Marcoux said, because many of the historic buildings that make up the Shops of the Grand Avenue would have been lost if the city had not stepped up in the 1980s.

According to the treasurer’s office, the company that manages the Grand Avenue mall, New York-based Ashkenazy Acquisitions Corp., is up to date on its taxes. Marcoux said he is scheduled to meet with the owners of Ashkenazy.

“We wanted to see what plans they have for the property,” Marcoux said, adding that he’s not sure what direction the meeting will now take.

Ashkenazy bought the property in 2005 for $31.7 million. It is currently assessed at $7.3 million, according to city records.

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