The rise and fall of Michigan's Northland Mall

Aug 21, 2014

Northland Mall in the early years
Northland Mall in the early years
Credit User: Michelle Welter‎ / facebook

“If you want to talk about the shopping mall, there are two things you have to talk about: the car and Detroit."

That’s NPR business reporter Sonari Glinton, who’s looking into the history of malls for a series with youth radio.

In his series, Glinton used Northland Center in Southfield as "exhibit A" of the rise and fall of the American mall.

Northland was one of the first shopping malls in the region. Glinton says its opening represented the moment of change for Detroit.

“1954, when this mall was opened, was the peak of receipts in downtown Detroit. It's as if they built this mall and said, OK, we're moving to the suburbs."

The glory days of Northland were the 1950s and '60s. And for decades, malls in general have been an icon of American life.

Today, the mall is threatened by the Internet and changing consumer expectations.

But that doesn’t mean the malls are necessarily dying. As Glinton explains, “They are going through a transition, and we are going to see the difference in the years to come.” 

* Listen to the interview with Sonari Glinton above.