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Successor to demolished Eastland Center mall now open, ready for tenants

In World
June 04, 2024

The successor to the former Eastland Center mall is now officially open and ready for business tenants to arrive.

Built on the site of the demolished shopping mall along Eight Mile and Vernier Road in Harper Woods, Eastland Commerce Center is a new development of three massive warehouses that can be set up for light industrial or commercial use, with just over 1 million square feet of total available space.

The development was built on spec by Kansas City, Missouri-based NorthPoint Development, which says the project represents a $135 million capital investment.

During a ribbon-cutting event at the site Monday morning, NorthPoint officials said one of the three warehouses is now fully leased to a single tenant and they are still trying to land tenants for the other two.

The cavernous interior of Building 1 at Eastland Commerce Center

The cavernous interior of Building 1 at Eastland Commerce Center

The single tenant is Thailand-based auto supplier Thai Summit Corp., which has contracts with automaker Stellantis and anticipates employing 60 to 80 people at Eastland Commerce Center next year, once it has fully moved into Building 1. Thai Summit’s other North American facilities are in Howell and the state of Kentucky.

The cavernous Building 1 — nearly 300,000 square feet, and still empty on Monday — was the location of the ribbon-cutting event. There were several dozen people in attendance, including Wayne County Executive Warren Evans and Harper Woods Mayor Valerie Kindle.

“I really want to thank NorthPoint for its commitment to this project,” Evans said.

The former Eastland Mall site in Harper Woods is now occupied by new buildings photographed Monday, June 3, 2024.

The former Eastland Mall site in Harper Woods is now occupied by new buildings photographed Monday, June 3, 2024.

Long-struggling Eastland Center mall was essentially a dead mall by summer 2021 and down to just a handful of stores when NorthPoint bought the entire 83-acre property later that year from the mall’s final owner, New York-based Kohan Retail Investment Group.

At the time, industrial bulk warehouses were a booming segment in southeast Michigan real estate and new projects filled up with e-commerce tenants and automotive suppliers as fast as developers could build them.

The former Eastland Mall site in Harper Woods is now occupied by new buildings photographed Monday, June 3, 2024.

The former Eastland Mall site in Harper Woods is now occupied by new buildings photographed Monday, June 3, 2024.

NorthPoint proceeded to completely demolish the mall and replace it with the trio of warehouses: one about 535,000 square feet in size, another nearly 300,000 square feet and the third just under 210,000 square feet.

NorthPoint was awarded several incentives to help with the demolition and the redevelopment, including a $17.4 million future local- and state-level Brownfield tax capture and a $12.2 million local tax abatement.

A map of the three warehouses at Eastland Commerce Center

A map of the three warehouses at Eastland Commerce Center

Tim Conder, vice president of development for NorthPoint, said in an interview Monday that while demand for bulk warehouse space has since cooled a bit from the frenzy that it once was, inquiries for Eastland’s two still-available warehouses have picked up in recent weeks.

The earlier slowdown can be partly attributed to last fall’s United Auto Workers strike, he said, which led to a pause in new automotive-related investments.

“So there was not a lot of activity, and I think that carried over to the beginning of the year,” Conder said. “But it’s picked up.”

Eastland Commerce Center is expected to ultimately create over 500 jobs, including both construction jobs and permanent post-construction jobs.

That is down from early projections that anticipated 250 construction jobs, then 560 additional permanent jobs.

Conder said that job numbers for projects such as Eastland Commerce Center often change because they are built on spec, without commitments from future occupants.

“It just depends on the users,” he said. “Some of them are heavier labor than others.”

Tim Conder is vice president of development for NorthPoint

Tim Conder is vice president of development for NorthPoint

When NorthPoint bought the old Eastland mall, it also acquired property inside the mall — including the various pieces of public artwork such as the celebrated Marshall Fredericks sculpture “The Lion and the Mouse.”

“I had more calls about “The Lion and the Mouse” than I did about the acquisition of the mall,” Conder told the crowd Monday.

Many of the closed businesses have their lights off inside Eastland Center in Harper Woods on Aug. 25, 2021. The once-popular mall was sold with plans for it to be demolished by the end of the year.

Many of the closed businesses have their lights off inside Eastland Center in Harper Woods on Aug. 25, 2021. The once-popular mall was sold with plans for it to be demolished by the end of the year.

NorthPoint’s foundation went on to donate “The Lion and the Mouse” to the Detroit Historical Society, and the sculpture could be displayed in the future at the new Ascension St. John Children’s Hospital wing in Detroit.

NorthPoint has in recent years undertaken several similar redevelopment projects in southeast Michigan, including to the former Cadillac Stamping plant on Detroit’s east side and the former American Motors Corp. headquarters on Detroit’s west side.

What it was like: Eastland Center mall’s final months

Contact JC Reindl: 313-222-6631 or jcreindl@freepress.com. Follow him on X @jcreindl.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Eastland mall successor now open, ready for tenants

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