By the Numbers


 The advent of the automobile, along with public transportation, gave birth to shopping malls in the 1950s, and proponents predicted they would never go out of style. After all, the roads around the malls were easy to navigate, there was plenty of free parking, and the stores offered climate-
controlled environments.

How could anything go wrong?

Time has tempered the exuberance. Consider the fate of Summit Place Mall in Waterford Township, Livonia Mall and Wonderland Mall in Livonia, and Winchester Mall in Rochester Hills. Even though the enclosed malls were built within dense neighbor-
hoods and located along busy thorough- fares, over the last decade they were either closed or largely demolished and replaced with power centers.

The reasons are many, but the closures and redevelopments were propelled by a lack of reinvestment, competition in the form of newer malls and superstores, failed retailers, and online shopping.

Renovating an aging mall for modern tastes has proven to be an elusive goal, and while Northland Center in Southfield and Eastland Center in Harper Woods have undergone renovations, they haven’t matched the energy and shopping traffic from their earlier days. But the new owners of Macomb Mall in Roseville may have solved the puzzle.

After acquiring the center out of receivership last year, Lormax Stern Development Co. in Bloomfield Hills was eager to show an
enclosed mall could be renovated without resorting to full-scale demolition. Rather, the mall is undergoing selective re-engineering. Some spaces have been closed and demolished, and in their place will be new offerings like Dick’s Sporting Goods, Shoe Carnival, and ULTA Beauty.

“What Macomb Mall has in abundance is dual-income households in the area, where families have combined (annual) salaries of $140,000 to $150,000, meaning there’s a lot of disposable income,” says Chris Brochert, a principal with Lormax Stern, during a tour of the center. “Given that basis point, we had a lot of opportunities to be creative.”

With numerous leases nearing extension or expiration deadlines, Brochert and his team combined the best ideas from enclosed malls and outdoor centers to craft a redevelopment plan. When Dick’s Sporting Goods moves into its new space in the coming weeks, replacing a two-story Value City store, it will be accessible from the parking lot as well as from inside the mall. A separate collection of stores will be added in the parking lot.

Inside, Brochert points to several retailers that have recently moved or will soon relocate to better attract shoppers. In turn, all of the kiosks, vending machines, and cart rental stands will be relocated from the center of the hallways, either to areas along the exterior walls or within inset spaces.

The makeover will touch everything: Carpeting will replace tiles in many areas, ceiling treatments will be redone to maximize the amount of natural light streaming inside, and new furniture arrangements will serve as “living rooms throughout the mall,” Brochert says. The renovation means shoppers will no longer have to “navigate all of these kiosks; it was like a corn maze.”

The first phase will be ready in October, when the mall celebrates its 50th anniversary. The second and final phase will commence following the holidays, with a scheduled completion in October 2015. Even the iconic, yet tired, Macomb Mall sign along Gratiot Avenue will be refashioned with new materials and LED lights.

After half a century — which, in the world of retail, is more than a lifetime — the project proves that investment dollars matched with creativity can spark reinvention. db