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Once a Shopping Paradise, Northland Mall Looks Ready to Die

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[Photography by Chris and Michelle Gerard]

Dead and dying malls haunt the outskirts of cities across the country, but Northland Center in suburban Detroit deserves a heartfelt goodbye. Built on 60 acres of farmland a dozen miles outside downtown Detroit, Northland opened in 1954 as suburbia's first great shopping center. It was a revolution. Millions visited what the Free Press called a "shopper's paradise," hailing the miracle of its endless free parking.
Anchored by a massive Hudson's department store, Northland proved that shopping could be done better outside of cramped urban areas. For Downtown Detroit, the shopping center was a serious blow from which it would never fully recover. Northland still has a pulse today, but the grizzled facility is fading fast.

ABOVE: Dotted with colorful gardens and fountains, Northland was originally an outdoor shopping center with a Hudson's department store at its center. It was the first major design from architect Victor Gruen ("father of the shopping mall") to actually be built. Enclosed in 1974, the mall's original identity has been buried under multiple renovations and expansions.
BELOW: Macy's and Target—Northland's last two anchors—have already jumped ship, leaving smaller stores to fend for themselves in a ghostly complex that hasn't seen significant investment since the early 1990s. Occupancy is below 50% today, leaving the interior strikingly empty.

Northland Center Mall

21500 Northwestern Hwy, Southfield, MI 48075