Eric Mackey's Commentary

Posted July 9, 2007(user submitted)

Northland Center Mall is not really dead anymore, but the future success of the revitalization of Detroit proper will play a major role in Northland's survival.

Northland Center Mall is a part of history. It was one of the very first shopping centers ever to open. Northland opened in 1954 as an outdoor mall at the corner of Northwestern Highway and Greenfield Rd in Southfield, Michigan. It featured 110 stores on two levels clustered around the nations second largest (behind the Macy's of New York City) department store, which was a 4 level Hudson. When first built, it cost 30,000,000, but the sales of the Hudson's location more than paid for the entire center, Topping out at almost 100,000,000 the first year it was opened. The mall was considered "Detroit's Mall", being less than a Half mile from Detroit proper.

Northland Center became enclosed in 1974, gaining a JC Penny and Montgomery Wards as 2 new anchors. Later, 3 more anchors were added: Main Street (later Kohls), TJ Maxx, and a Target. The Mall became part of the 4 directionally named and located malls of the Detroit Suburbs. The fortunes of Detroit itself were not going so well, The 1967 Detroit riots caused many people to flee to the suburbs, stores and homes all over the city became vacant and later vandalized. This opened the floodgates for crime. The 1970's and 80's are considered Detroit's most dangerous decades. The 80's brought on the rise of gangs and unfortunately, the gangs in Detroit chose Northland as their hangout. Many of the chain tenants left either for fear or all their business had been scared away. The Mall began to deteriorate, as it was not being taken care of. The malls occupancy slumped below 30% and was virtually empty, even on the weekends. Eventually, regular police patrols were added to both the parking lot and the interior, and the gangs eventually moved on.

The damage had been done however. Kresge was the first anchor to close in 1984 and was subdivided to add more stores to the malls mix. The malls management did much to attract tenants back and fix the mall up since then, but the underperforming Montgomery Ward Closed in 1995 along with the Kohls. The old MGW space was soon after leased by National Wholesale Liquidators, a local company similar to Big Lots. The old Kohls space was subdivided to make room for a Jeeper's! (an indoor amusement park for kids) and a few other stores. The mall did well at bouncing back, as the interior and exterior received updates; further increasing the tenant mix and customer base. It did little for the JC Penny, though, which decided to close the location at Northland in 2000. The TJ Maxx also closed in 2005, citing a sharp decrease in sales.

Today, the mall does well despite having 2 vacant anchors and being just above 60% occupied. The mall also does have a distinctly 70's and 80's look at some areas on the exterior and I think it would help if they fixed that. Northland Center does still boast the largest Macy's store in Michigan (formerly the Hudsons) which is 500,015 square feet between 4 levels. The mall that started it all presses on in the shadow of the struggling city of Detroit and its future success hinges on weather or not Detroit can win the war an become a viable big city again.

I have 3 pictures :

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