Northland Center served as a landmark of Detroit’s suburban expansion, ostentatiously opening in 1954. and is attributed to Southfield’s prosperity during the middle decades of the 20th century. Northland, and its sister Eastland in Harper Woods, featured an all-inclusive array of services including a post office, a bank, shopping, dining, and even free gas for stranded motorists. The convenience was so appealing to Detroiters that many moved to the suburbs just to be near the supercenters. [x]
After the 12th Street riots of 1967, which marked the beginning of Detroit’s decline, many more Detroit residents followed to the suburbs in order to avoid crime and civil unrest. Though it began as an open-air mall, it was enclosed in the 1970’s, only temporarily decreasing a rising wave of crime.
A new food court was added in 1991 and a variety of big-box stores such as Montgomery Ward, TJ Maxx, JC Penney, and Kohls opened and closed throughout the late 90’s and early 2000’s.
Controversy surrounded Northland Center when in 2014, two untrained members of mall security pepper-sprayed and choked 25-year-old Ferndale resident McKenzie Cochran, causing his death. Though the guards weren’t convicted for any wrongdoing, the suspicious circumstances surrounding Cochran’s death caused an additional drop in business. [x]
Months after Cochran’s death, flagship stores Target and Macy’s declared their impending closure. Macy’s closure was announced on the mall’s 61st anniversary, March 22nd, 2015.
The famous “Boy and Bear” sculpture by renowned detroit artist Marshall M. Fredericks (the artist who sculpted The Spirit of Detroit at the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center), as well as an assortment of the mall’s other lavish artwork, was purchased by the city of Southfield for $500,000 in addition to relief from back taxes. Donald Fricassi, the mayor of Southfield, told the Detroit Free Press that he didn’t want the artwork to leave the city. [x]
Shortly thereafter, the city acquired the boarded mall’s property in October of 2015. The city hopes that the renown of the property’s name and the meaning it once held for Southfield will attract a buyer to demolish and redevelop the land. [x]
Though a security guard patrols the shuttered mall, even newer plywood boards since the building’s closure in April 2015 (when these photographs were taken) seem to indicate trespassers, vandals, and metal scrappers are already gaining access.
“How ironic,” former State Senator Jack Faxon told Jack Lessenberry of Michigan Radio for his essay on the death of Northland Center. “It was the start of the end of Detroit, and now it is the end of Southfield.” [x]