Southfield — Officials gathered Thursday at Northland Shopping Center for the ceremonial start of demolition of the former Target building to pave the way for redevelopment of the 125-acre shopping destination.
The city of Southfield bought the mall, at Eight Mile and the Lodge freeway in October 2015 for $2.4 million. The site is under consideration by Amazon for its second headquarters and at least three health providers, officials said Thursday.
The iconic mall opened in 1954 and was once the largest mall in the world, drawing customers, helping to triple the city’s population, and drawing business and offices to Southfield.
“We did not want this to be a blighted site like others in the metro area,” Southfield Mayor Kenson Siver said. “We have prevented decay, graffiti and metal scrapping.”
Siver said “like other Metro Detroiters” he was sorry to see the mall close but due to numerous factors, including changing consumer tastes, it was a foregone conclusion.
“There was no viable offers for the property as is,” Siver said before joining other officials in taking a few ceremonial sledgehammer swings at a wall of the Target store. “So this was a good plan, working with the (Downtown Development Authority).”
“We know that retail has changed and you can either be paralyzed or move forward in a way to develop a site,” the mayor said.
The city’s master plan for the site involved a mixed use of office, research and development and housing of up to 1,000 residences.
They tout that the mall property is a “brownfield” containing all the needed infrastructure, including utilities, acres of parking and access to freeways. It also contains about 80,000 square feet of storage and tunnels beneath the site that should be valuable to a developer.
City Council president Myron Frasier described Thursday as “a great day for tearing down a building.”
“This is part of the rebirth of the city of Southfield and keep us ‘in the center of it all,” said Frasier, referring to the city’s slogan.
City Administrator Fred Zorn was excited at the teardown of the Target building, which is expected to take about two weeks, followed by the demolition of the Firestone building. Further demolition of the mall is planned to begin in spring 2018.
“There has been strong interest in the site, including three medical groups looking at it,” said Zorn. “A lot is happening behind the scenes.”
Zorn said the community has a rare opportunity – one that comes along “every 50 to 60 years” – to reinvent itself.
“We have submitted what we have to offer to Amazon and hope they give it strong consideration,” Zorn said. “I don’t know how they could duplicate this somewhere else. But we are ready to move forward – whether it is Amazon or something better.”
Siver said officials are working to restore at least part of the former Hudson’s department store for other purposes – possibly storing artwork salvaged from the mall before it closed.
“My hope is that economy stays strong so we can develop it sooner rather than later,” said Siver. “It will not be a mall. It will be mixed use …We know good things are going to happen.”