Mannequins await removal at the closing Lakeside Mall June 27.

Mannequins await removal at the closing Lakeside Mall June 27.

Photo by Patricia O'Blenes

Mall walkers, business owners share their thoughts about Lakeside closing

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published June 30, 2024


Like dozens of other people walking through Lakeside Mall June 27 – the Thursday before its last open day of June 30 and its July 1 closing date – Frank Talo was reliving his memories of growing up with the shopping center. 

“The early ’80s, I spent a lot of time here – spent all my allowance and my grass-cutting money on the arcades, back-to-school shopping,” said Talo, who lives in the St. Clair Shores area. 

“It’s a pretty big part of my childhood. … It’s kind of sad, you know, but it seems like online shopping … and I heard the pandemic was kind of the final nail in the coffin with a lot of malls, not just Lakeside.”

Talo blamed the COVID-19 pandemic and the popularity of online shopping for the mall’s decline and ultimate demise.


A mall in metamorphosis
Lakeside Mall originally opened in 1976, notably through the efforts of mall developer A. Alfred Taubman. But for years over the last decade, Sterling Heights officials have envisioned and have prepared for a future redevelopment of the Lakeside Mall area.

The mall’s most recent ownership, Lionheart Capital/Out of the Box Ventures, acquired the mall property in 2019. In November 2022, it presented to the Sterling Heights City Council a vision for a mixed-use Lakeside Town Center. In the mall’s place, the town center is envisioned as a billion-dollar project on an estimated 110 acres of mixed-use neighborhoods, apartments, retail shops, office space, green space, a hotel, a community center and more.

That presentation originally predicted the demolition of the main mall building for sometime around late 2024 or early 2025, with town center construction to emerge over the ensuing 12 or so years. In April 2024, city officials said the redevelopment plan was running around a year behind schedule, due in part to difficulty with the mall ownership’s acquisition negotiations over the vacant Sears and Lord & Taylor properties. 

But even in early 2023, some mall tenants told the Sterling Heights Sentry that they feared the town center news would falsely lead locals to believe that the mall was closing right away. At the time, Sterling Heights Community Relations Director Melanie Davis emphasized that “Lakeside Mall is not closing” – at least not imminently.


Tenants, attendees reflect
William Hayes co-owns This, That & The Other Thing, a store that sold everything from DVDs to collectibles and small appliances. When he talked to the Sentry June 27, he cast blame on the city for the mall’s current situation. 

“Like a lot of our customers and a lot of the stores that were in here, they are thoroughly disgusted with the city of Sterling Heights,” he said.  

Hayes said his store moved into the mall around 3 ½ years ago, back when, he said, the mall was around 75% filled.

“They turned around and broke the news, and everybody started running, and they caused the collapse of many businesses and everything and people that they put out of business because they really can’t afford to go anywhere else,” he said.

He called the mall “an amazing building” and praised the mall management as “really good” for promptly taking care of everyone if they had a problem. 

Jamie Torrico, the manager of the Anime GT store, said she has been honored to be part of the Lakeside family. She said the closing experience is sad, in large part due to the impact it’ll have on her customers and the community.

“I'm really, like, broken-hearted. Like, there's such a void,” she said. “We have people that have come out of state, from Up North, and they come specifically just to see us in the store. 

“So it’s just, we’re just really humbled that we’ve even had customers crying that we’re closing this location down. … We’ve seen people grow up as our customers, go to college, get married. We’ve had items of ours at their weddings as part of their weddings, and then they’ve had kids and they bring their kids in.”

Torrico said that while she has been in business for around 25 years, this is the first time her business has been actually closed without another location already set up. She said she hopes to relocate somewhere in the area of Macomb or Oakland County.

“We’re just trying to see where there’s some options for us, since the closure was a little bit more sudden than we all expected,” she said. 

Sterling Heights and mall ownership formally announced that the mall would be closed by July 1 in a May 1 email. On Lakeside’s website,, Macy’s has an announcement that it is still hiring and plans to stay open even after the mall’s closure. On June 30, workers from Lakeside JCPenney said over the phone that their store would also remain open after the mall closes.

Meanwhile, near the food court, mall patrons Joe and Helga Praust were strolling and reminiscing. They said they have lived in Sterling Heights since 1971 and have been visiting Lakeside since its opening. And what will they remember most?

“Everything. We met a lot of people,” Helga Praust said. “It’s sad, but what are you going to do?”

“Nothing lasts forever,” added Joe Praust.


History preserved

In an email, the Sterling Heights Public Library’s local library historian, Mitchell Mulroy, said his duties have recently included gathering news articles and securely archiving news station footage about the mall closing. 

He added that he plans to use social media to show Lakeside’s construction during the 1970s and get people talking. 

“I hope to use this as an opportunity to let the community know more about the local history resources available at the library, as well as answer questions about Lakeside they might have,” he said. 

Mulroy described how Lakeside shaped Sterling Heights’ direction. He said it fostered “rapid urban development and economic change” in the city and other neighboring communities as the population grew in the late 1960s and early 1970s. 

Mulroy explained that real estate developers took 1 1/2 years to acquire Lakeside’s land and then spent another two years building the mall.

“A lot of the land acquired came from smaller farms, and several residents have spoken in oral histories about the mall being built on especially rich soil for crops,” Mulroy said.

“Shortly after it was built, the rent for storefronts was quite high, and only large stores like Sears were buying up space. The streets around the mall, including Hall Road, were still under construction when it opened. Smaller developers started taking up cheaper space around the mall as it became available.”


Sculptures to be saved
Although Lakeside Mall is now an empty edifice, its tall, abstract sculptures and public art will still be enjoyed for years to come, according to the mall’s ownership.

On June 26, a joint announcement between the city of Sterling Heights and the mall ownership stated that “much of” of the mall’s public art will be incorporated into the Lakeside Town Center. 

According to the statement, sculptures by Bruce Beasley, Fletcher Benton and Buky Schwartz will be saved for future display amid the estimated 30 acres of town center public spaces.  

“We have been deeply moved by how much Lakeside Mall has meant to the Sterling Heights community for nearly 50 years,” Allison Greenfield, chief development officer of Lionheart Capital, said in the statement.

“This inspired us to create plans for repurposing the existing public art within the reimagined Lakeside. One of Lionheart’s main pillars is to reduce waste and facilitate reuse of serviceable materials and items, when possible, in the redevelopment process.”

The mall ownership also announced that it plans to host a charity estate sale later this year that will sell furniture, fixtures and other equipment. Event proceeds will reportedly go to the Sterling Heights Area Community Foundation, the announcement stated.

In addition, the announcement said Out of the Box Ventures will be involved in asking Sterlingfest Art & Music Fair attendees to suggest names for a future Lakeside Town Center bike path. OOTB also hopes to play a sponsorship role at the Sept. 6 Dodge Park Food Truck Rally and the Sept. 27 State of the City Breakfast, the statement added.

Sterling Heights Mayor Michael Taylor said in a June 29 text message that he planned to visit Lakeside one more time June 30.

“I'll take a final walk through sometime in the morning,” he said. “What I'll remember most is meeting friends there in high school, clothes shopping with my mom and brother as a kid, and throwing coins in the fountain!” 

When asked whether it is fair for mall tenants to blame the city and the town center announcement for accelerating the mall’s decline, Taylor said the city’s plans for Lakeside have been publicized since at least 2015. 

“While I sympathize with the businesses at Lakeside, this day was inevitable and it’s better for the city to be transparent about the plans,” Taylor said.

Learn more about Lionheart Capital/Out of the Box Ventures by visiting Learn more about Sterling Heights and the Lakeside Town Center plans by visiting or calling (586) 446-2489.