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DETROIT-Eastland Center Mall in Harper Woods, on the east border of Detroit, is undergoing plans for an extensive redevelopment. The 1.3 million-sf mall, built by Dayton Hudson Properties in 1957, was constructed as one of the first open-air centers. Almost 25 years later, the center was enclosed.

The aging mall has struggled on through the last few decades, as more elaborate and lavish malls were built in the northern Detroit suburbs. Anchors Kohl’s, Montgomery Ward and JCPenney closed and Target moved in during the mid-1990s. Hudson’s has changed its name to Marshall Field’s.

There’s still about a 23% vacancy rate at the mall, but Marketing Director Denise DeSantis said changes are going on both inside and out. For example, she said outside outlot pads and anchors on the 100-acre parcel are being developed. “We’ve got a 160,000-sf Sears coming Oct. 18, and Lowe’s is opening a 141,000-sf store the week of Halloween,” DeSantis told GlobeSt.com. “One more anchor spot can be filled. We’ve also got three major big box locations that are close to signing, and we have two out-parcels along the roadway currently under construction. It’s going to be exciting.”

With a new Home Depot on its own spot in the mall property, and Lowe’s and Sears nearby, the property will become a home improvement hub, DeSantis said.

The mall’s management is also working on three different plans for a new food court area, she said. One option is to do a cookie-cutter, normal food court, another is to bring in big-name restaurants which will become destination eateries and the other idea is to just disperse the food stores throughout the mall to encourage mall traffic.

Shopco Advisory Corp. of New York bought Eastland in 2000 for about $67 million to try a turn-around of the mall, said DeSantis. Shopco President Marc Yassky told GlobeSt.com that the upgrades should take “much less than four years” to accomplish goals and allow the mall to again flourish.

DeSantis said the mall has a diverse customer base, great appeal because of its history and still is close to an average mall with average sales for non-anchor stores selling at a little more than $300 psf. “We have a low- to moderate-income, urban base nearby, but also get shoppers from middle- to upper-income areas like Grosse Pointe. Everyone wants to shop at the place they grew up with,” DeSantis said.

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