Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Northland Shopping Center

Northland Center, located in Southfield, Michigan was the world’s largest shopping center, and first regional shopping center, when it opened on March 22, 1954. For many, its construction heralded the beginning of the end for downtown Detroit’s shopping district, and the beginning of suburban shopping malls.

Designed by architect Victor Gruen and constructed at a cost of $25 million, Northland Center’s opening, widely publicized in the national media, was said to signal the future of shopping in postwar America. The Center had a Hudson’s department store as its anchor with, at time of opening, an additional 80 spaces for tenants, all surrounded by an 8,344-space parking lot. Northland Center also featured a bank, post office, auditoriums, artwork, fountains and extensive landscaping, design features that were soon incorporated by other developers across the country.

The artwork included six sculptures commissioned by Hudson’s, perhaps the most well-known being Marshall Fredericks’ Boy and the Bear. Among other commissioned works were Moby Dick by Joseph Anthony McDonnell, and Lily Saarinen’s water sculpture/fountain, Noah.

In 1975, Northland Center was enclosed as a mall, and a food court was added to the complex in 1991. Despite these additions, Northland suffered a natural decline as it aged. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, major tenants vacated their operations, as did several of the anchor stores. The volume of shoppers dropped from its peak of 18 million annually to half of that. The property had various owners until the last in 2014 who defaulted on his mortgage.

Macy’s, the former Hudson’s, was the first and last anchor store, shuttering in March 2015. Later that year the city of Southfield acquired the 125-acre property for $2.4 million Demolition began in 2017, with the Target and Firestone buildings being the first to go. In 2020, the land and remaining structures, including the Hudson’s building, were sold for redevelopment. 

The Southfield Public Arts Commission purchased 11 of the sculptures, including Boy and the Bear, which is installed in the Southfield Public Library.



Postcard depicting Northland Center, c.1960 – 2011.036.158

Postcard depicting Northland Center courtyard, c.1960 – 2011.036.159

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