I walk past the Prospect Mall nearly every day. And when I do, I can't help but regret that such a high-profile corner of the East Side is sitting vacant.
Windows are boarded up and/or broken, there is graffiti. But what's worst of all is that it's a dead zone. There is no life there, other than one small tomato plant that sprouted last summer from a crack in the sidewalk at the base of what used to be the entrance to the Chocolate Factory.
I was never really a fan of the Prospect Mall from the outside. The mostly windowless-design disconnected the indoor activity of the mall with the street; a terrible idea that also has -- if you ask me -- been a major downfall of the Shops at Grand Avenue mall.
When I moved here in the early '80s, the Prospect had a vibrant life on the inside and that lasted in some form for years thanks also to Bangkok Orchid and Thai Joe's. There was a cinema, the city's best video rentals store, Starspin record shop upstairs, the Chocolate Factory, the Greek restaurant and other businesses.
Every time I pass the place now, I think about what could go there.
Perhaps it could be renovated -- pop some windows in there, people -- and turned into a mall again with locally owned boutiques and shops. Or maybe it could become an art incubator with galleries and artists studios open to the public.
Or maybe it's simply time to say goodbye to a structure that has long since outlived its usefulness and doesn't make optimum use of a valuable footprint; tear it down and replace it with something better adapted to the future.
Maybe create a mix of retail and residential with underground parking. That could also free up the parking lot across the street for something better than a surface parking lot.
Maybe it should simply be transformed into an insanely large Pizza Man.
I'd like to hear what you think should go there. Put on your thinking caps Milwaukee and tell me your great ideas for the Prospect Mall.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.