John Mathie grew up on Stickney Avenue in Wauwatosa and often patronized Colony Camera, a nearby camera shop that helped feed his early passion for photography.
The business, previously located at 8807 W. North Ave., has been closed for several years, but remnants of the store — including the original "Colony Camera" sign on the building's front side and an intricate window display still remain.
Although Mathie has moved to Chicago, he hasn't forgotten his Wauwatosa roots; he still owns two houses on Stickney Avenue and his father is still a resident of the city. His parents met at Club Tap, across the street from Colony Camera, many years ago.
"I have a strong attachment to this area," he said.
Now, Mathie looks to give a facelift to the now-vacant building that helped shape his childhood.
Mathie recently purchased the Colony Camera building — and the duplex that sits behind it — with a handful of redevelopment ideas in mind.
One potential outcome for the lot would be to bulldoze the existing buildings completely and build a retail shopping center in its place. Another option is to construct a mixed-use building with retail on the bottom and apartment units on top, he said.
Or, Mathie said, he could leave the site as is, make some repairs and give the building some maintenance work and bring in a new tenant.
Much of the site's future is yet to be determined, he said, especially since a "fair amount" of petroleum contamination has been found on site as a gas station once operated there for decades, he said.
"The first step is to complete environmental work with the (Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources)," he said.
According to the city's online property web portal, the 7,405 square foot Colony Camera building was constructed in 1938 and was assessed at $214,700 in 2015 between land and improvement values. The building was previously owned by Christine Whitstone.
Mathie said early conversations with Wauwatosa residents have shown locals hope to see a restaurant and bar move into that side of town if retail is the route he takes.
The corridor along North Avenue has flourished in recent years with the addition of new businesses. A Midtown business group — which represents approximately 50 businesses west of Wauwatosa Avenue on North Avenue — is staying busy, said Alderwoman Allison Byrne.
Byrne said she's "very grateful" that Mathie has personal stakes in the redevelopment of the Colony Camera site. She added Midtown Wauwatosa has been identified as somewhat of a "health corridor" due to the business located along the street, including Tosa Pediatrics and Anytime Fitness — the latter a building that Mathie owns. He also owns surrounding parking lots.
The timeline for revamping the Colony Camera site is still very much up in the air, but Mathie said he hopes to begin the project late this year or early 2017.