Michigan State University

March 22, 1954 : First Suburban Shopping Mall

Jon Harrison
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On March 22, 1954, the state's first regional shopping mall opened in Southfield. As Detroit's population spread north and west out of the city, the J. L. Hudson Company built the huge Northland Shopping Center at Eight Mile Road, the boundary between Wayne and Oakland Counties. The mall's central store, a multi-storied J. L. Hudson's, was flanked by 100 smaller shops. The mall also had acres of parking lots.

 

The mall in March 2015.

Northland was enclosed in the mid-1970s. Over the years, it has expanded its presence in Southfield, tucked between Greenfield Road and the Lodge Freeway. (Fun fact No. 1: The street that curves around its northern and northwestern border is J.L. Hudson Drive.)

In it's heydey, it was a robust shopping experience. Earlier in its history, consumers could stop in at Winkelman's, Kresge's (Fun fact No. 2: The K in Kmart stand for Kresge.), Hughes & Hatcher, Himelhoch's and Robinson Furniture.

Later years saw national chains like Foot Locker, Rainbow, Payless, Kay Jewelers, and local stores like City Slickers and Manic Shoes.

Rounding out the offerings were a food court, mid-corridor kiosks and shops ranging from a dollar store to a watch-repair site.

More recently, the mall has been losing about $250,000 a month and owes millions in bills. The foot traffic that once made the 1.4-million-square-foot shopping mecca a regional draw is long gone.

Macy's is closing today (March 22, 2015), although if there's a lot of merchandise still to sell, it might stay open a day or two longer. Other stores in the mall will be closing April 1 or April 9. Then, that's it.

Source: Michigan History Magazine and Wikipedia

JC Reindl and Georgea Kovanis, "Macy’s, last anchor at Northland, to close", Detroit Free Press, January 9, 2015, page A1

Maurielle Lu, "Judge: Northland Mall to close after more than 60 years", Fox2 News, February 25, 2015.

Zlati Meyer, "Just a short time remains to shop at historic Northland", Detroit Free Press, March 22, 2015.

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