A nuisance tobacco shop, known to be a hot bed for criminal activity, is being demolished Wednesday.
The 27th Street Tobacco Shop closed years ago, but has been an eye sore at best in the community.
“This is probably over a 25 year issue,” Keith Stanley, Executive Director of Near West Side Partners said. “Close to 150 police calls on average. In one year, 250 calls. A lot of residents felt helpless and powerless.”
“Homicides, shootouts in the parking lot, extensive loitering, prostitution activity, drug dealing right out of the store, gun running right out of the store,” Ald. Bob Bauman said. “Neighbors were fed up.”
Bauman says they have been struggling to get new tenants in the area because of the reputation of the smoke shop. Now things are moving forward. Penfield plans to make the area a parking lot for the time being but will eventually develop a building on the 17,200-square-foot lot.
“I’m cheering for residents,” Stanley said. “Cheering for businesses, employees, visitors of the Near West Side. The Near West Side is a thriving, busy part of the City of Milwaukee and we’re growing. I’m really excited to see we’re making positive change in the Near West Side and looking forward to the future. A lot of investment, small businesses are coming in. We’ve had over 26 new businesses in the last three years on the Near West Side. They’re moving to 27th street. We’re excited about that.”
Residents in the area feel the same way.
“It’s more hopeful and causes other people to want to start a real business and do something good for the community,” Pat Mueller said. “When you start getting rid of these things that aren’t adding to the neighborhood, it gives people a hopeful feeling.”
“This is one step,” Melford Strowder said.
Strowder has lived in this neighborhood for about a decade. He’s seen the destructive patterns the smoke shop has had on the area. He’s happy to see its destruction today.
“It’s going to pick the neighborhood up now,” Strowder said. “Everybody [is] scared around here by that place right there.”
Penfield hasn’t given a timeline for when they plan on creating a building.