Harper Woods city officials past and present announce the demolition of Eastland Center and plans for new industrial development June 24.

Harper Woods city officials past and present announce the demolition of Eastland Center and plans for new industrial development June 24.

Photos by Patricia O’Blenes


Eastland Center to be demolished

Land will be developed for industrial businesses

By: Brendan Losinski | Metro | Published June 24, 2021

 After years of struggling financially, Eastland Center will be torn down so that new industrial businesses can operate at the site.

After years of struggling financially, Eastland Center will be torn down so that new industrial businesses can operate at the site.

 Built in 1957, Eastland Center has served the community as a hub for retail for decades. Due to flagging sales and the loss of most of its flagship stores, the mall will be torn down in early 2022.

Built in 1957, Eastland Center has served the community as a hub for retail for decades. Due to flagging sales and the loss of most of its flagship stores, the mall will be torn down in early 2022.

 NorthPoint Development will be building three new industrial complexes on the site of Eastland Center. The new buildings will offer approximately 1 million square feet of space for class-A industrial businesses.

NorthPoint Development will be building three new industrial complexes on the site of Eastland Center. The new buildings will offer approximately 1 million square feet of space for class-A industrial businesses.

Graphic provided by NorthPoint Development

HARPER WOODS — Eastland Center, the long-standing shopping mall located in Harper Woods, has been approved for demolition to make way for new industrial businesses.

The announcement was made at a press conference outside the mall June 24. The mall will make way for a $94.2 million development being organized by manufacturing and logistics development company NorthPoint Development and Farmington Hills-based full-service development company LoPatin & Co. The development was approved by the Harper Woods Planning Commission June 23.

“I think we’re embarking on a great partnership to move forward and move Harper Woods forward and to do what is best for our citizens,” said Harper Woods Mayor Valerie Kindle. “So much good is going to come out of this.”

Several city officials spoke at the press conference, including Kindle, Harper Woods Public Schools Superintendent Steven McGhee and former Mayor Kenneth Poynter.

“When Eastland opened in 1957, I was here on the opening day. There was so much energy and excitement and enthusiasm in the air. It was really a boon for Harper Woods and the surrounding communities,” said Poynter. “Then unfortunately, it then hit upon bad times and stores started leaving. Now, however, as soon as I got out of my car (today), I could feel that same energy and enthusiasm rekindling itself.”

Although there previously was some discussion by Harper Woods city officials that some city offices could be moved to the Eastland site if new development were to be arranged there, Kindle said that will not be the case. All of the restaurants and other businesses off Vernier Road and Kelly Road will remain and not be directly affected by the new development.

“The plan for the site is a total redevelopment,” said Tim Conder, vice president for NorthPoint Development in the Detroit area. “The buildings will be razed and completely torn down, and we plan to build three industrial buildings for state-of-the-art, class-A industrial projects totaling approximately 1 million square feet.” 

He added that the demolition will be done manually, not through implosion.

No businesses have been identified yet that will move into the proposed spaces.

“We will be building them on a speculative basis, which means we don’t have a tenant identified at this point, but our history and our track record has proven that as we go through the construction process, and with the relationships with other tenants, that we feel confident we will be able to lease the property by the time construction is complete,” Conder explained. “Right now we are under contract, but we haven’t closed. We still have a few items we need to work through. Tentatively, it looks like it will be a late October close, and we will continue to operate the mall through the holiday season.”

Construction is estimated to be completed in April of 2023. 

“We believe this is the highest and best use for the property,” Felix Reznick, of 4th Dimension Properties, which in partnership with Kohan Retail Investment Group are the owners of Eastland Center, said in a press release. “We are pleased to sell the site to a highly reputable company such as NorthPoint, which has developed more than 97 million square feet of Class-A industrial space in 24 states.”

Conder said the site will be as ideal for industrial businesses as it was for a mall.

“There’s not a lot of competition in the area for industrial projects. The way e-commerce is trending, it’s more online-based and (businesses) need the distribution patterns to serve as that,” he said. “When malls were developed, they were designed to bring people in from the surrounding communities. That means this site has excellent egress from (Interstate 94), Vernier (Road) and Eight Mile (Road). With industrial businesses, it’s the same since you have trucks and employees who will come and you need that ease of access.”

He believes this will mean a huge economic benefit for the Harper Woods area.

“(Two years from now) we hope to see a fully leased, operating project that is generating ample revenue for the city, and new jobs coming in for the community,” Conder remarked. “During the demolition and construction period, we anticipate 250 new jobs. Then when the construction is completed and we have an operating project, we anticipate at least 560 permanent jobs.”

While community leaders are touting the new development as a huge step forward, some are less enthusiastic. Some including Paul Messina, the franchise owner of Charleys Philly Steaks, a restaurant inside the mall, feel let down and betrayed since they have worked hard to keep the mall going through difficult times.

“We’ve been here since 2005. A lot of the managers we have working here have been here all this time too, and now we’re all going to be out of a job,” Messina said. “What are we supposed to do?” 

Messina also said the businesses that remain in the mall were only made aware of the closure one day before the announcement was made public.

“The mall sent a flyer around (yesterday) saying that we were going to be closed down at the end of the year,” said Messina. “Maybe it will be (a good thing for the community), but in the meantime, how’s it going to be good for us? We have families and people to support. … We have no control over it.”

Kindle responded by saying that the mall, while beloved by many people, including herself, was no longer financially viable and that she and her fellow city officials had to make decisions that would benefit the community as a whole.

“You all know that the majority of you all shop at Amazon, and that’s one of the reasons for the demise of malls,” she said. “We tried our best to hold on to what we had here with Macy’s and Target. It didn’t work, and because the owner of the mall would not even do regular upgrades — you can see the condition of the parking lot — we had to do what was best for our total community. … As much as I will miss the mall — I have really great memories of driving here with my grandmother and my mother and aunt and eating at Hudson’s restaurant — those are the days of the past and we have to move forward.”

Members of the public can make their voices heard at upcoming public meetings in Harper Woods at City Hall. Dates and times for those meetings are available at www.harperwoodscity.org.

“At the Planning Commission we always have public comments,” Kindle said. “We don’t have any special town hall meetings planned, but that may be a possibility so residents can weigh in or ask any questions they may have.”

The next Harper Woods Planning Commission meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, July 28. A final City Council vote on the matter will take place in August.

“This is just the beginning. Think of where Harper Woods is going to go in the next five years,” remarked Kindle. “We will be back in the game.”