The Uncertain Future Of A Detroit Retail Icon

by MR Magazine Staff

For months, the local papers watched excitedly as a shopping center of unprecedented proportions rose on the outskirts of Detroit. When Northland Center finally opened in March 1954, they could hardly contain themselves. “The size of such a mammoth group of stores as Northland Center is often hard for the layman to visualize,” marveled the Detroit Free Press, which added helpfully that the 9 million pounds of steel that would go into the structure represented the equivalent of “4,000 autos,” while the mall would be equipped with “enough refrigeration to make 200 million ice cubes daily.” Outside stretched a lot for 8,344 cars, then the largest public lot in the world. And should a customer lose their vehicle among the acres of Buicks and Packards, the “Lost Car Department” could dispatch a jeep to drive the customer around to find it. The interior of this “stately pleasure dome”—embellished with gardens and sophisticated modern sculpture—would be lined with more than a mile of storefronts. “Wives who visit the new Northland Shopping Center will never want to go home,” declared the Free Press columnist Louis Cook. “When they are not shopping they will just sit on the benches under the trees, listening to the splashing of fountains and dreaming up new ways of spending money.” Darla Van Hoey was three years old when Northland opened in Southfield Township, an event covered not only by local outlets but also by TimeLifeArchitectural Forum, and The Wall Street Journal. “Coming to Northland was a big deal,” she says. “The gardens were beautiful. We would make a big shopping trip before Christmas, and we took the family there when they were visiting from out of town.” Read more at The Atlantic.