Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The "Dead Zone"; Dearborn Michigan

There are several such "dead zones" that I know of in the area, but this one is my favorite. I don't know if there is a name for this strip mall, but its at the corner of Telegraph Road and Michigan Avenue in Dearborn. This area is kind of strange in the way that you have both very wealthy and very poor communities right next to each other. It sits to the south of the Gully/Cherry Hill corridor, which is where the richy-rich of Dearborn and Dearborn Heights live. Then travel 5 minutes to the west in you are in Inkster, one the poorest of the Detroit suburbs. This shoppin center is also isolated from Telegraph, as Michigan Ave is bridged over it. At its peak, the dead zone had a Wendy's, a Showcase Cinema (formerly the Dearborn Theater), Big Boy, IHOP, Chuckie Cheese, DTE energy customer service center, a Dental office, Kids Spot, Toys R Us, Pep Boys, and a Caddie Dealership. I site this centers demise for the following reasons:
1. Its Isolation from busy Telegraph RD.
2. The changing demographics of the area
3. The condition of the center
4. Its proximity to the stuggling city of Inkster.

The strip mall part of the center is pretty unexciting looking, with a dull exterior and a tore up parking lot. The 1st businesses to leave was the Pep Boys or the IHOP in the late 90's. The Pep Boy's remains vacant to this day, and the building itself is really falling apart. The old IHOP was torn down and replaced with a Dunkin Donuts/Baskin Robbins. Something odd about this is that IHOP just opened a new location a mile north of where the old one was! The new location is on Ford Road and is a big success from what I hear. I drive by it everyday and the parking lot is always packed! Anyway, it was all downhill from there for the dead zone. The Showcase Cinema folded soon after cause of the new Star at Fairlane Town Center. It now sits boarded up and for sale. The Caddie Dealership moved their operation to a new, bigger showroom and lot in downtown west Dearborn (at least they tore the vacant building down). The DTE customer service center, another store, and most recently, the Wendys are also closed now. I visited the center earlier today and the parking lot was pretty empty. It looks like the remaining businesses aren't doing that well save the Big Boy. I wonder how bad it will get before the owners decide to invest some money in it. Its still a prime location and would do well if they would remodel and add a mix of stores that fit the area's clientele. Although, its isolation from Telegraph does not help. Inkster could do a lot to improve their situation as well. I will let you know if I find out anything about any changes to the dead zone or planned improvements.

From Telgraph RD going west:

Former Wendys

Former Showcase Cinema

Big Boy, the strongest business in the center.

Dunkin Donuts

The strip mall; Chuckie Cheese, Dentist, former DTE CSC, Kids Spot, Unidentified Vacant Space, and Toys R Us.

Former Pep Boys; Label Scar and all.

At least Caddie had enough sense to tear down their vacant building.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Update on Universal Mall; Warren Michigan

I met an employee from Universal a few days ago that told me that "they" (city or mall management?) are planning to invest a considerable amount of money ( I can't remember the exact amount) into tearing down the existing mall and building Warrens' first lifestyle center. He also told that AJ Wright and the movie theather plan to stay, but no word on Burlington Coat Factory. The employee added that he hopes the movie theater does leave because it has become a babysitting service for children and teens whose parents drop them off there. He seemed pretty excited about it, but I can hardly be. Lifestyle centers just dont work with michigans weather pattens and it being cold half the year. Why do you think that they enclosed both Wonderland Mall and Northland after a while?

I know that I haven't posted a blog on the dead Universal Mall yet, but I plan to in the future. I just thought I would share this lil bit of info with you before I forgot it.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Lincoln Park Shopping Center; Lincoln Park Michigan

20 years ago, Lincoln Park was a prosperous suburb just south of Detroit proper. Things have changed however, as people move to the newer southern Detroit burbs, such as Brownstown and Carleton. Being directly south of one of Detroits most poor neighboorhoods doesn't help matters much. Crime has spread into LP as a result and it shows through at the Lincoln Park Shopping Center.

At the busy corner of Southfeild Rd and Dix, LPSC was a prime location for such a center when it was built. LPSC is anchored by a Sears and at one time an F&M drug store and a Old Navy. 25 Smaller spaces rounded out the rest of the center. In its prime, all the spaces were of course leased. Today, things aren't so grand. F&M went out of business in the mid 90's leaving all of their locations vacant, including the one in LPSC. The Closing of F&M wasn't the nail in the coffin, however. The Star movie theater then closed in the late 90's due to the remodeled Southgate Cinema and the new Star 21 screen megaplex in Fairlane Town Center. Harmony House also went out of business and by this time, LPSC was heading into a state of disrepair with peeling paint, falling plaster, and half painted over graffitti.

The real nail in the coffin was really the opening of the Fairlane Green shopping center in nearby Allen Park where Old Navy, Dunhams, and Dress Barn relocated. A lot of the remaining customer base followed. LPSC continued to be poorly maintained and dirty. Then it was announced that most of LPSC would be sold and torn down to build a new Walmart Supercenter but even before these developments, it seems as though LPSC was just given up on. President tux, Complete rehab, KB Toyworks, Hallmark, and many of the other smaller stores closed from low sales and/or fearing the Walmart would steal what little sales they still had. Most of the remaining stores are planning to weather the storm and attempt to coexist with the Walmart when it is opened. The Walmart won't be even started for a year and a half though; and LPSC quite frankly, looks like shit lol. It would be nice if something was done to spruce it up, but that probably won't happen.

Former Old Navy

Former Dress Barn

Most of these stores are staying

Broken window

I have noticed that its a PITA to post photos on the actual page, so I have been forced to add a link to my photobucket. Perhaps someone can help me with posting photos?

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Livonia Mall; Livonia Michigan

Livonia is a suburb approx. 20 miles to the west of Detroit. While it may be an older detroit suburb, it still thrives which is kind of unique considering the condition of Livonia Mall. Its not really the fault of a struggling city, but more of the density of the surronding area that caused this mall to die. In the 60's and 70's the western detroit suburbs boomed with growth while the retail sector tried to keep up. To meet the demand of the growing area, 3 malls were constructed withing a very short distance of each other. Livonia was the 1st, then Wonderland (also in livonia) and finally Westland Mall (in Westland) in 1965. Livonia mall sits on the corner of 7 Mile rd and Middlebelt rd, Wonderland was on the Plymouth rd and Middlebelt, and Westland Warren Ave and Wayne rd. . I did the math and all of these malls were only an average of 5 miles from each other! Thats a lot of malls in a small area! In 1989 they made things worse by adding Laurel Park Place mall on 6 Mile rd close to I-275. LPP is a very upscale mall and that, combined with several other factors spelled doom from Livonia mall.

Livonia mall opened in 1962 and most of the decor hasn't changed much from then, especially the exterior.

Sometime in the 80's a wing with a Mervyn's was added and some of the decor was updated with the typical pastel colors, recessed lighting, and fake plants of the era. This makes the mall look strange and nothing flows together as it should. The 1960's exterior was nice back then, but today after years of neglect it just looks drab and dingy. Not doing much to upgrade the looks combined with the previously mentioned hurt the mall. When in its prime, the mall had 5 anchors: Kresge, Sears, Crowleys, Children's Palace, and Mervyns. Kresge closed in the late 80's and the space I assume was subdivided into smaller stores to add to the malls mix. I'm not sure when the Children's Palace closed, but it was vacant until the late 90's when a paint ball fortress began leasing the space. Crowley's became a Value City in the late 90's and Mervyns closed all of their Michigan locations in 2006, leaving the mall with 2 out of the 4 anchors currently occupied. The lack of stable anchors and competition from other malls caused the many of the smaller chain tenants to leave the mall and now many storefronts are vacant. Most of the reamaining tenants are mom and pop stores, but there are a few national chains still there. I think footlocker, Waldenbooks, and GNC (the last store a dying mall closes) are still open.
Plans were made in 2006 to tear down the mall and convert it to a strip mall, but Sears (who owns their building) could not agree on anything and such plans have stalled. The mall has changed ownership and management several times in the past few years. No one seems to be willing to deal with it lol.

The Former Children's Palace space; now a paintball fortress:

The Former Mervyns space complete with label scar:

The movie theater marquee:

One of two updated entrances. Too bad they are one the backside of the mall and face away from the main roads:

Two shots from inside taken in 2004. As you can see noone is shopping:

"And You thought that urban decay was bad!" Thats the tagline of this blog and it fits quite well. As people move farther and farther away from the big cities in search of whatever it may be, sprawl is choking the life out of once thriving metro area's. Nothing could be more true of the The Detroit Area which is especially dense with over 50 suburbs surronding Detroit makeing what many from here refer to as "The Metro area". Older suburbs closer to Detroit are facing hard times as people spread out to newer ones and the business sectors follow.
In this blog, I will visit malls and large shopping plazas in the burbs of detroit that have been hit hard by sprawl. What happened to make it get this bad? Is there anything being done revitalize? What can be done in the future? I hope to bring fourth fond memories, make people think, and adress some very serious problems.

Enjoy and comment often!