Northland Center was a shopping mall on an approximately 159-acre (64 ha) site located near the intersection of M-10 and Greenfield Road in Southfield, Michigan, an inner-ring suburb of Detroit, Michigan, United States. Construction began in 1952 and the mall opened on March 22, 1954.
|Location||Southfield, Michigan, United States|
|Opening date||March 22, 1954|
|Closing date||April 15, 2015|
(demolished October 26, 2017–spring 2018)
|Developer||J.L. Hudson Company|
|Management||Spinoso Real Estate Group (custody of mall during receivership)|
|Owner||CW Capital Asset Management LLC|
|No. of stores and services||100|
|No. of anchor tenants||5 at peak|
|Total retail floor area||1,449,719 sq ft (134,683.3 m2)|
|No. of floors||1|
Northland was a milestone for regional shopping centers in the United States. Designed by Victor Gruen, the mall initially included a four-level Hudson's with a ring of stores surrounding it. As originally built, it was an open air pedestrian mall with arrayed structures. The mall was enclosed in the 1970s and expanded several times in its history. Additions included five other department store anchors: J. C. Penney in the 1980s, MainStreet (sold to Kohl's) in the 1980s, and TJ Maxx, Target, and Montgomery Ward in the 1990s. Managed by Spinoso Real Estate Group, Northland Center featured approximately 100 stores. Macy's, the last anchor, closed on March 22, 2015, exactly 61 years to the date of the mall's opening.
The historic J. L. Hudson Company, a major upscale Detroit based department store chain, built Northland Center. Hudson's—at its Downtown Detroit location on Woodward Avenue—grew to become the second largest department store (next to Macy's of New York City) in the United States. In 1948, architect Victor Gruen convinced Hudson's, then reluctant to build branch stores, to take advantage of suburban growth by constructing a ring of four shopping centers surrounding the city of Detroit. Of the four – Eastland Center, Southland Center, and Westland Center were the others – Northland was the first to be built. These malls encircle Detroit's inner-ring of suburbs. At the time, Northland Center was the world's largest shopping center.
Northland Center became the first major postwar development in suburban Detroit and was the first of many forays into the suburbs by Hudson's. Some $30,000,000 was invested in constructing the facility. The first-year gross for the Northland Hudson's was $88 million.
The shopping center opened to much fanfare. Articles about the center appeared in national media outlets such as The Wall Street Journal, Time, Look, Life, Ladies Home Journal and Newsweek. Reviewers had heralded the Northland as the future of shopping in post-war America. Besides Hudson's, Northland opened with a number of other local retailers including: Hughes & Hatcher, Max Green's, Kosins, The Wild Pair, Barna-Bee Children's Shops, Cunningham Drug, Baker's Shoes, Chandler's Shoes, Big Boy restaurant, Himelhoch's, Winkelman's, Albert's, S.S. Kresge Corporation, Robinson Furniture, Raimi's Curtains, Better Made Potato Chips, Kroger, Barricini Candies and Sanders in the two-million-square-foot center. Northland featured auditoriums, The Northland Playhouse, The Northland Theater, a bank, post office, infirmary, sculptures by Marshall Fredericks, fountains, an office for lost children, lavish landscaping, and free gasoline for customers who had run out.
Gruen would later grow disenchanted with the malls he helped start with Northland. The architect, who also designed suburban Detroit's three other "directional" malls (Eastland Center, Westland Center, and Southland Center), Chicago's Randhurst, and South Jersey's Cherry Hill Mall, pronounced himself disillusioned with the ugliness and fast-buck approach of many projects. "I refuse to pay alimony for those bastard developments", he told Time magazine.
Northland Center was enclosed as a mall in 1974, the same year that J. C. Penney was added. Federated Department Stores short-lived MainStreet chain opened in 1985 and was later acquired by and rechristened Kohl's. T.J. Maxx, Montgomery Ward, and a food court were added in 1991.
Construction of other malls in the metro area presented remodeling challenges and redevelopment opportunities for the metro area's inner-ring suburban malls including Northland. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Northland had a turnover of major tenants. Kohl's closed its operations in 1995 at the mall, along with a sister store at Eastland Center. Target built its store on the building's west end and opened in 1996. AMC Theatres opened this Star Southfield 20 in June 20, 1997, and Great Lakes Crossing Outlets opened on November 12, 1998. Montgomery Ward shuttered due to the chain's financial troubles in 1998; JCPenney and T.J. Maxx closed in 2000 and 2004, respectively. National Wholesale Liquidators opened in 2005 in Wards' former building, and closed three years later. In 2007, Target completed a renovation of its interior and exterior, as well as an expansion to accommodate a pharmacy, Starbucks, and Pizza Hut.
Loss of anchorsEdit
In 2013, T. J. Maxx's space became a playplace called Extreme Fun. In November 2014, Target announced the closing of its store. The store closed in February 2015 part of closing 11 stores nationwide. This was followed by an announcement in January 2015 by Southfield acting mayor Donald Fracassi that Macy's was planning the closing of its store as well. This announcement was officially confirmed by Macy's itself the following day. The store closed on March 22, 2015, the store's 61st anniversary.
Financial trouble and resulting closureEdit
Northland Center was sold on December 18, 2008 to New York City-based Ashkenazy Acquisition Corporation, with Jones Lang LaSalle (which also owns Eastland Center in Harper Woods). Ashkenazy Acquisition defaulted on a $31 million payment in the summer of 2014, and Spinoso Real Estate Group was named receiver.
In February 2015, following the closure of the anchor stores, a local judge announced that the mall would be closing as of March 2015. Around this time, the mall's official website closed.
On October 7, 2015, the city of Southfield purchased the property for $2.5 million with plans to demolish most of the property. The only remnants of the original property that would be spared are the maintenance garage, the network of tunnels underneath the mall, the water tower and the building that formerly housed Macy's.
Demolition and redevelopment opportunitiesEdit
On October 26, 2017, two-and-a-half years after the mall's shuttering, demolition began on Northland Center, with the former Target store being the first section to be levelled, followed by the former Firestone tire center. After the asbestos abatement is completed within the remaining mall, demolition will continue in the spring of 2018. The city of Southfield also submitted a proposal to Amazon for its search to establish a second headquarters, pitching the former 125-acre Northland Center site.
Demographic and Consumer ChangesEdit
A common complaint and belief was that Northland's decline and demise was in part to the change in consumer base and changing demographics in Metro Detroit. During Northland's early years, there was a larger consumer base and less competition from rival malls. Competition from newer malls like Somerset Collection, Fairlane Town Center, Oakland Mall, Twelve Oaks Mall contributed to the migration from Northland. Northland failed to compete and change with the changing needs and expectations of consumers and was slowly replaced by more upscale shopping alternatives. In its later years, there were a few violent crimes and shoplifting was rampant, which further contributed to its decline.
The mall was located next to John C. Lodge Freeway with exits at Eight Mile Road and West Nine Mile Road.
Northland Transit Center, a terminal shared between SMART and DDOT, was located on the south side of the mall. Due to the mall's closure, the transit center ceased operations on September 3, 2017, forcing DDOT and SMART to relocate the twelve bus routes that travelled through the center.
A number of buildings are located along the perimeter of the mall:
- vacant retail space along Greenfield Road next to water tower
- Northfield Maintenance Garage on J. L. Hudson Drive
- Founders Tower 14
- CSL Plasma
- Detroit Free Press, "Macy’s, last anchor at Northland, to close", JC Reindl and Georgea Kovanis, January 9, 2015, page A1
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