Eastland Center 'transformation' advances as construction starts on industrial development

Candice Williams
The Detroit News

Harper Woods — Sixty-five years after Eastland Center opened its doors to shoppers, the developer of a $94 million industrial complex broke ground on the project that will replace the longtime retail mall.

Construction is underway on the first of three buildings for NorthPoint Development's Eastland Commerce Center that will total 1,040,646 square feet on the 80-acre site for expected manufacturing and warehouse tenants.

“We’re really proud to acknowledge the history of Eastland Mall, but also recognize the transformation in the way that buying is done,” said Marc Werner, regional vice president of NorthPoint Development during a groundbreaking ceremony Thursday. “This is going to be a great example of a shift from brick and mortar to e-commerce.”

Marc Werner, a regional vice president of NorthPoint Development, speaks during a groundbreaking ceremony to celebrate the development of Eastland Commerce Center on the site of the former Eastland Center mall, in Harper Woods, July 7, 2022.

Werner was joined Thursday by Harper Woods Mayor Valerie Kindle, Wayne County Chief Administrative Officer Khalil Rahal and other local officials. In the background, demolition continued on what remained of the former mall.

Demolition is expected to be complete by October of this year. The first building, which sits closest to Vernier Road, will be 295,000 square feet and is expected to be finished by early summer 2023. Buildings two and three will be 535,000 square feet and 207,000 square feet, respectively, and are expected to be done by late summer 2023.

Once one of Metro Detroit's busiest shopping malls, Eastland Center closed in January and is being razed to make way for an industrial development.

Werner said NorthPoint doesn't have any tenants yet for the Class A modern industrial site, but they are marketing it for what will likely be e-commerce use. Potential tenants typically start to call when the walls go up, he said.

It’s been a year since the developer and officials announced Eastland Center would be razed and replaced by an industrial site, following years of decline for the mall. The last stores closed at the start of this year and demolition started shortly afterward.

The development is expected to create 550 full-time warehouse and manufacturing jobs and generate more than $20 million in wages and $739,000 in payroll taxes, officials said.

Demolition of the former Eastland Center shopping center continues in Harper Woods.

Rahal said NorthPoint has been a great partner with Wayne County, including projects at the former Cadillac Stamping Plant and former AMC Headquarters in Detroit and Aerotropolis in Romulus.

He credits Harper Woods officials and the developer with finding a new use for the mall at a time when brick and mortar retail is suffering.

“Municipalities like this one had this problem with this space occupier and what do we do with it?” Rahal said. “What do we do with the parking? How do we convert these buildings? How much does it cost to demo? How are we going to find partners to make these things work? And then there's real world COVID problems, there’s supply chain issues, there’s cost of materials, there's labor shortages. There's a lot of opportunity for misinformation campaigns in a country that's already divided. You figured that out here in Harper Woods.”

Harper Woods Mayor Valerie Kindle says the city needs the investment by NorthPoint to replace Eastland Center.

Kindle noted that the mall opened 65 years ago this month and holds a lot of memories for people. One of her memories is having a Maurice salad with her grandmother at Hudson’s. Kindle said the city couldn’t pass up the opportunity to bring in new investment to replace the languishing mall.

“I said memories are great,” she said. “They’re always in the inside in your heart. But what better memories are we going to make right here? That’s going to benefit everybody.”

cwilliams@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @CWilliams_DN