Northland Center

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Northland Center
Location Southfield, Michigan, USA
Opening date March 22, 1954
Closing date April 15, 2015
Developer J.L. Hudson Company
Management Spinoso Real Estate Group (custody of mall during receivership)
Owner CW Capital Asset Management LLC
Architect Victor Gruen
No. of stores and services 100
No. of anchor tenants 4
Total retail floor area 1,449,719 sq ft (134,683.3 m2)
No. of floors 1
Parking 8,671

Northland Center was a shopping mall on an approximately 159-acre (64 ha) site located at the intersection of Northwestern Highway and Greenfield Road in the City of Southfield, Michigan, an inner-ring suburb of Detroit, Michigan, United States. Construction began in 1952 and the mall opened on March 22, 1954.

Northland was a milestone for regional shopping centers in the postwar United States. Designed by Victor Gruen, the mall initially included a four-level Hudson's with a ring of stores surrounding it. In the 1960s it was joined by a modernistic cinema with a Cinerama screen. The mall was enclosed in the 1970s and expanded several times in its history. 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.[1]

"King of Pop" Michael Jackson visited the mall on July 15, 1998 while on business trip.[2][3]


Early years[edit]

The mall in March 2015.

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 three shopping centers surrounding the city of Detroit. Of the others – Eastland Center, Southland Center, and Westland Center – 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.[4]

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 $88,000,000.[5]

Hudson's created new synergy through a merger with Dayton's of Minneapolis to form the Dayton–Hudson Corporation (now Target Corporation), re-branded as Marshall Field's in 2001. May Department Stores acquired Marshall Fields. Following a merger with May Department Stores, Federated renamed the stores Macy's on September 9, 2006.

Designed by Victor Gruen, 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, Barna-Bee Children's Shops, Cunningham Drug, Baker's Shoes, Chandler's Shoes, Big Boy restaurant, Himelhoch's, Winkelman's, S.S. Kresge Corporation, Robinson Furniture, Better Made Potato Chips, Kroger, and Sanders in the two-million-square-foot center. Northland featured auditoriums, a bank, post office, infirmary, sculptures, 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.[6]


Northland Center was enclosed as a mall in 1974,[7] 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 rechristed Kohl's. T.J. Maxx, Montgomery Ward, and a food court were both added in 1991.[7]

Construction of other malls in the metro area present 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 1994 at the mall; Target built its store on the building's west end and opened in 1996. 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 anchors[edit]

A mall hallway in 2015.

In 2013, T. J. Maxx's space became a playplace called Extreme Fun.[8] In November 2014, Target announced the closing of its store, which happened in February 2015.[9] This was followed by an announcement in January 2015 by Southfield acting mayor Donald Fracassi that Macy's is planning the closing of its store as well, which happened on March 22, 2015, the store's 61st anniversary.[10] This announcement was officially confirmed by Macy's itself the following day.[11]

Financial trouble and resulting closure[edit]

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).[12] Ashkenazy Acquisition defaulted on a $31 million payment in the summer of 2014, and Spinoso Real Estate Group was named receiver.[1]

In February 2015, following the closure of the anchor stores, a local judge announced that the mall would be closing as of March 2015.[13] 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 the property.[14][15]

Demographical changes[edit]

A common complaint and belief was that Northland's decline and demise was in part to a large African-American consumer base that came from Detroit.[16][17] During Northland's early years, Southfield was predominantly Jewish and white in population, and the shopping mall had a large white consumer base. After the Twelfth Street riot—which accelerated the white flight that was taking place in Detroit--Coleman A. Young became Detroit's first black mayor and some of his social philosophies didn't resonate well with some of his black middle-class residents. That, in conjunction with the declining safety and stability in many Detroit neighborhoods, prompted many black families to relocate to Southfield, as well as neighboring Oak Park, Lathrup Village and parts of Ferndale, which took place from the late 1970s and continued into the 1980s and 1990s. This change in demographics didn't go well with Northland's white customers and they eventually migrated to malls like Somerset Collection, Fairlane Town Center, and Oakland Mall, where each mall were located in safer cities. By the 1980s, crack cocaine became a massive problem to Detroit's exacerbating issues with crime, and as a consequence many gangs were in formation and navigated to Northland as a congregational place. According to the 2000 census, 54.22% of Southfield's population was black; a decade later, that figure increased to 70.3%. Subsequently, relations between the black residents of Southfield and Detroit have deteriorated.[18]


The mall is 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, is located on the south side of the mall:


  • 400 Southfield / Orchard Ridge
  • 405 Northwestern Highway
  • 415 Greenfield
  • 420 Southfield
  • 710 Nine Mile Crosstown
  • 851 West Bloomfield-Farmington Hills Park and Ride


  • 16 Dexter
  • 17 8 Mile
  • 22 Greenfield
  • 23 Hamilton
  • 46 Southfield
  • 60 Evergreen

Exterior tenants[edit]

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
  • Wendy's
  • CSL Plasma
  • Vibe Credit Union

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Detroit Free Press, "Macy’s, last anchor at Northland, to close", JC Reindl and Georgea Kovanis, January 9, 2015, page A1
  2. ^  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  3. ^  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  4. ^ Hardwick, Jeffrey M. "Mall Maker: Victor Gruen, Architect of an American Dream." University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004.
  5. ^ RETAIL TRADE,OIL: Pleasure-Domes with Parking
  6. ^ Environment: A Pall Over the Suburban Mall
  7. ^ a b SEC Info – Midwest Real Estate Shopping Center LP – Def 14A – For 6/28/94
  8. ^ "Regular meeting of the planning commission" (PDF). City of Southfield. 27 March 2013. Retrieved 19 November 2013. 
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^ Miller, Jennie. "Sale of Northland Center finalized". C & G News. Retrieved 2009-01-13. 
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 42°27′4.2″N 83°12′16.8″W / 42.451167°N 83.204667°W / 42.451167; -83.204667