Southfield — City officials announced recently a refurbished Moby Dick sculpture, purchased as part of the Northland Mall art collection, will soon be installed in the fountain of the Southfield Public Library on Evergreen Road.

Moby Dick, created by American sculptor Joseph Anthony McDonnell, was commissioned by the J.L. Hudson Co. for Northland Mall 52 years ago.  The 1,100-pound bronze sculpture and fountain graced a courtyard in the center of the mall until 2015, when the mall closed.

After purchasing the closed mall at Eight Mile Road and the Lodge freeway for $2.4 million from a court-ordered receiver in 2015, the city of Southfield took possession of the 18-piece Northland art collection, including Moby Dick. The collection was purchased for $500,000 through a city-arranged, low interest loan. 

The Mayor’s Office and the Southfield Public Arts Commission raised about $700,000 to repay the loan and has continued to raise additional money to restore and place the art throughout Southfield.

Another reclaimed popular piece,The Boy and Bear sculpture by the late Marshall Fredericks, was installed in the library’s vestibule in May 2016 along with the Walter Kraft Peacock positioned in the library’s front circle this fall. Other pieces will be installed throughout the city.

As the artwork enriches Southfield and its visitors, officials say the best is yet to come: the remaking of the 125-acre Northland Shopping Center site rather than watch it decay into a blighted eyesore.

“A number of developers are interested in the site,” said city spokesperson Michael Manion. “Demolition is expected to begin this Spring and once leveled, things should happen quickly.”

Pacific Medical Building, out of San Diego, is working with Ascension Hospital to create a mixed-use medical facility on the majority of the site, he said.  PMB is proposing to build a mixed-use medical development on 25 to 30 acres on the northeast side of the property directly across from Providence Hospital. General Development Corp., a Southfield-based commercial real estate development firm that specializes in built-to-suit office, industrial and R&D projects, has also expressed interest in developing 20 acres of the property on the southwest side.

"The Northland name is synonymous with Southfield,” Southfield Mayor Kenson Siver said, and the overview of its redevelopment will include medical and retail facilities, offices, housing, entertainment and dining.

“We are very excited about the current developments proposed and we remain confident that this project will be a great success,” Siver said. “We are literally paving the way for redevelopment and we hope that this project can be a model for other communities across the country.”

When Northland Center opened in March 1954, it was the largest shopping mall in the world and led the way to Southfield becoming a major commercial, business and residential area in Metro Detroit. Today Southfield has more than 27 million square feet of office space.

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