Blake Hutchison's Commentary

Posted November 14, 2008 (user submitted)

Okay, I was driving through Michigan's Upper Peninsula, when I found this dead mall in Marquette.

It is a relatively small mall, isn't really anchored by anything major unless you count Dunham's Discount Sports as an anchor. It looks like there were also two other anchors at one time. One of these anchor spaces is currently occupied by a car dealership. The other is completely abandoned. It looks like it might have been a K-Mart, Ames, or possibly a Hills, though. It also looks like it might have been a movie theater at some point in its life However, I could not distinguish what it was from the labelscar. Being that I'm from Ohio and the day I was at this mall also happened to be my first time in the U.P., I don't really know anything about what was there. And there was really nobody to ask.

Other than Dunhams, which has exterior access, there are only about three stores inside the mall. One is some kind of airbrush nail salon - which for some reason looked like a tattoo parlor at first. Of course, being from Ohio, I have seen those in old malls too sometimes. There are also county offices for Marquette County, and a music shop.

Many of the abandoned stores are completely accessible - they don't have the screens down - and you could just walk right in if you wanted to. I decided not to, since I don't know how nit-picky the Marquette police are about things like that.

My best guess is that this mall was built around 1970, going by the exterior facade, and from the high ceilings and wide interiors that were common of malls built around this time in the Great Lakes region.

I suspect that four factors have caused the Marquette Mall to die a slow death:

1. Competition. There are three huge shopping centers less than half a mile away the Marquette Mall on M-28/US 41 - occupied by Kohls, Target (which is a surprisingly huge store considering Marquette is no bigger than it is), and of course, a Wal-Mart Supercenter. 2. Economy. Ever since the copper mining industry went bust in the Upper Peninsula, there just aren't as many good-paying jobs in the area. The Indian Casinos, while a boost to the economy and providing good jobs for many, really don't employ enough people to make up for the copper mining jobs lost. 3. Geography. The Upper Peninsula is a third of Michigan's land mass, but only 3% of the state's population. Marquette, sizable, does not really have enough of a population to support a mall, and since Marquette is pretty isolated in terms of population density in the surrounding area, there really isn't a strong regional base for a mall.

Brad W's Commentary

Posted March 26, 2009 (user submitted)

The Marquette Mall used to be anchored by Woolworths, not a K-Mart, Ames, or Hills. The Woolworths space was most recently used by Big Lots. The other side of the mall had a Big Boy restaurant near where the car dealership is now. It did also have a movie theater which survived for a few years after the mall lost most of its stores. I believe the theater closed in the late 90s after going through several different incarnations. There was also a Jo-Ann Fabrics which just closed several years ago.

The Marquette Mall was quite popular during the 80s but was declining by the 1990s when a new mall (the Westwood Mall) was being built/expanded in Marquette. The Marquette Mall was simply outdated and poorly maintained. Competition from the new mall was a major factor and not, as suggested, the influx of shopping centers such as Wal-Mart, Kohls and Target... all of those big box stores came years after the Marquette Mall had died.

It was also suggested that the economy was to blame for the mall's failure- this probably had some influence but not quite as much as hypothesized on your site. Like I mentioned, the new mall was seeing a lot of business- it was new and had more modern stores/brands. So people were shopping, just at different places. Marquette has actually seen growth despite the economic challenges of the region. It has the U.P.'s largest hospital as well as Northern Michigan University and numerous smaller industries. There is and has never been copper mining in Marquette County. The writer of the Mqt Mall article has mistaken that for iron mining which is centered in the Ishpeming/Negaunee areas- with mines being about 20 miles from Marquette. Those mines are still in operation but not to the scale that they used to be. Finally, Marquette does have a population large enough to support the Westwood Mall which is very small- about 30 stores. But now the big box stores are competition for smaller stores. Marquette has WalMart, Kohls, Target, Lowes, Mendards, etc. As for mall shopping, a major trend over the last 15 years or so was/is to drive 3 hours to Green Bay and Appleton Wisconsin where the larger population supports larger malls. This has no doubt affected the Marquette malls.

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