Former Kmart buildings sit dead while some redeveloped

Ian Thibodeau
The Detroit News

The former Kmart on Van Born in Taylor has been stripped of signage and its 700-space parking lot is full of cracks. The store has been closed since September, and prospects are not good for the building that has weathered changing times and tastes since 1963.

Seven Michigan Kmarts will close Dec. 11. Structures that were tailor-made for Kmarts are a challenge to fill with other retail.

“That corridor has had its share of bad luck lately,” said city of Taylor spokesman Karl Ziomek, who said there are no immediate plans for the site.

The building is one of dozens of former Kmart locations vacated in Michigan after a string of closures by Sears Holding Corp.

Since 2000, two years before Kmart filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, nearly two-thirds of the 2,165 Kmart stores that were operating nationwide have been shuttered. Already this year, 132 store closures have been announced, including about dozen in Michigan. Seven Michigan stores will close Dec. 11, including locations in Fenton and Jackson, leaving yet another group of empty big-box stores.

While defunct Kmarts in Bloomfield Hills, Woodhaven and other Metro Detroit cities have been resurrected as new enterprises, vacant Kmart buildings pepper the region. The very nature of the aging buildings, often massive structures tailor-made to house Kmarts, makes them hard to fill with other retail.

In Bloomfield Hills, a 129,000-square-foot former Kmart was converted to an At Home decor store. It opened in September.

The same can be said for the largest chunk of Kmart history left behind — the 1.1 million-square-foot, 40-acre former headquarters at 3100 W. Big Beaver in Troy. It has yet to see any concrete plans for redevelopment since it was vacated in 2006, shortly after Kmart merged with Sears.

However Nate Forbes, managing partner of The Forbes Company which now owns the building, said the company is “reviewing development plans for the site of the former Kmart headquarters that will complement the vibrancy and growth on the Big Beaver corridor.”

Those plans will be presented in 2017, Forbes said in a mid-November statement.

Rumored uses for the site include hotels, condominiums, more shopping to complement the Somerset Collection across Coolidge Highway, or office space.

According to real state information service CoStar Group Inc., the property “must be demolished as part of a planned urban development. Currently, the demolition date has not been established ...”

The Forbes Company would not comment on whether it plans to demolish structures.

Masco Corporation, a manufacturing company, owns the empty Kmart in Taylor. The company also recently vacated its 415,606-square-foot office building next door for a space outside the city, leaving two large buildings empty.

Ziomek said repurposing the old Kmart location is tricky, because the center for retail has shifted to the city’s Wal-Mart supercenter and surrounding stores a few miles away.

Jeff Horka, manager of corporate real estate and property for Masco, said the company is putting together a marketing plan for the Kmart site. “It’s too early to say what it will be used for,” he said.

In Bloomfield Hills, a 129,000-square-foot former Kmart was recently converted to an At Home decor store. At Home moved into the building, constructed in 1992, in late September. The store had sat vacant for several years in a shopping center with a Costco, Dick’s Sporting Goods and T.J. Maxx.

The site of a former Kmart in Woodhaven is being redeveloped. One new tenant is Black Rock Bar and Grill.

Meanwhile in Woodhaven, developer Dave Przygoda is in the middle of redeveloping the former Kmart at West and Allen roads into a shopping center. The $20 million project is tricky, Przygoda said: The buildings were built specifically for Kmart, so it’s not easy for big-box retailers to fill the space without extensive renovations. The city of Woodhaven also requires updates to the facade, he said.

The modern brick building houses a few new tenants, including Black Rock Bar and Grill and a Lady Jane’s hair salon. Przygoda still has to find tenants for the two or three biggest spaces on the east end of the development. He expects to have the property completely redeveloped in the first few months of next year.

At least one big-name company likes to step in where Kmart left. Kroger has razed former Kmarts in Roseville, White Lake and Commerce Township, and plans to spend millions to build a store on Fort Street in Southgate after it tears down the vacant Kmart there.

The new Kroger will be a marketplace format, which consists of a large store with clothing and other goods, according to spokeswoman Rachel Hurst. The former Kmart locations typically allow Kroger to expand its marketplace line, she said. The Southgate location will open in 2017.