How Michigan’s First-Ever Mall Fell From Favor

It may be hard to believe, but Michigan was once home to the largest mall in the world. Not only was Northland Center in Southfield the largest in the world when it opened, it was also the first mall to open in the state. Sadly, like so many other pieces of Michigan history, Northland Center is no more.

To tell the story of the Northland Centre’s demise, you must go back to its essential beginning. The mall, located in Southfield, opened on March 22, 1954. Designed by architect Victor Gruen and built for $25 million, it took two years to build. The mall was actually built by its first flagship store, JL Hudson Company.

A first of its kind for Michigan, the mall was built on approximately 159 acres and featured a massive 8,344-space parking lot. The unique open-air mall also included a bank, post office, and auditoriums. The mall has grown to accommodate stores we’ve all known and loved for years, including JC Penney, Montgomery Ward, and more over the years. Then it all ended.

Like many malls, Northland has suffered from competition from other malls in the area. Other options meant fewer shoppers flocked to the old “one place” to shop. Soon major tenants began to leave, such as Target which opened in the center in 1996. The final blow came when Macy’s, a new takeover brand from Hudson’s, closed in the Northland Center on May 22, 2015. The closure came, ironically, 61 years until the day Hudson’s opened at the mall.

The mall also had to deal with a series of ownership changes and financial difficulties that all led to the inevitable. The mall officially closed on April 15, 2015. The town of Southfield purchased the property in October of that year with the agreement that the original Hudson building be preserved. The city only paid $2.5 million for the property.

Breathing new life into the Northland Center

As they say, often something new can rise from the ashes. At least that’s what those in charge of The Northland City Center hope. Following the completion of demolition which began in late 2021, plans have been put in place to create something new and exciting on the site of the once impressive mall.

On October 7, 2021, groundbreaking work began for a new $403 million redevelopment that will include 1,546 new rental units. There will also be retail spaces on the ground floor for shops and restaurants.

As for the building that started it all, the original JL Hudsons, it will find new life as Hudson City Market, a food and merchandise store.

You can follow the process as Northland Center comes to life on its Facebook page.

Memories of the Fox Theatre, Detroit

WATCH: Things from the year you were born that no longer exist

Iconic (and sometimes silly) toys, tech, and electronics have been usurped since their grand entrance, either through technological advancements or common-sense breakthroughs. See how many things on this list trigger childhood memories – and which ones were there and gone so fast you completely missed them.

Edwin S. Wolfe