In an effort to generate suburban business for Detroit-based retail store J.L. Hudson’s, Northland mall was built in 1954. Labeled as a “New Shopping Paradise” by The Detroit Free Press, Northland Mall started as a ring of retail outlets, circling the 4-story J.L. Hudson’s department store located on the outskirts of metro Detroit.
Besides Hudson’s, Northland opened with a number of other prestigious local retailers including Hughes & Hatcher, Himelhoch’s, Winkelman’s, Kresge’s, Robinson Furniture, Better Made Potato Chips and Sanders in the 2-million-square-foot, open-air center, on nearly 60-acres of land.
It wasn’t until the 1970s, Northland was enclosed, and other retail stores were added. The mall housed more than sixty stores when it first opened.
By the start of the 1980s, Northland ‘s walls housed not only shopping outlets and stores, but an infirmary, drugstore, and cinema within its lavish property. Northland had been the first largest mall in America; it was the very first mall built in Michigan.
Nearly sixty years of survival is gradually taking its toll on the historic shopping center; the parking lot itself, is a definite sign of deterioration. Cracks and potholes throughout Northland’s parking lot is the first sight shoppers see, and is often a deterrence. The once flourished large department store chains have either left the shopping center, or have diminished their businesses altogether. Leaving little opportunities for shoppers in search of those particular stores.
Over the years, Northland was hit by economy pressures and company crossovers, but never yielded to fail. Steadily blooming in a concrete society where once over 10 million shoppers spent most of their time, Northland’s mere 5 million shoppers are keeping the dream alive, according to 2004 reports by Larry Ruppert, Northland’s general manager. Only anchored by two major outlets (Macy’s and Target), Northland is continuously adding new smaller shops and boutiques for its shoppers.
Although the image of Northland Mall has declined, and the number of large retail outlets are slowly disappearing, residents are still spending time at the shopping center. For some visitors, the mall is more than a place to shop. Residents can be seen at the mall power-walking, having lunch and enjoying a cool stroll during hot, summer days.
Northland, once the largest shopping experience for a nation, may be just a blur to the memories of many, but to Detroit residents and surrounding areas, Northland is still a “Rose Blooming Through Concrete”.