WARREN, MI-Universal Mall Properties LLC, the owner of the struggling Universal Mall on Dequindre Road, have plans to tear down the 752,000-sf indoor mall on the 56-acre site and build a new lifestyle center. The company is going to spend about $25 million, with help from a $1.5-million grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corp. to defray the cost of demolition, lead and asbestos abatement and site preparation. The new mall will be about 600,000 sf with separate entrances, though no retailers have been announced yet.

In the state where the indoor mall debuted, Universal, built in 1965, has had one of the worst records in the past few years. Some of the anchors such as Montgomery Ward and Woolworth’s went dark years ago, and the mall is reportedly at less than 50% occupancy. Also, the mall hasn’t aged gracefully, and crime is a deterrent to customers.

Mike Shore, chief communications officer for the MEDC, says the property qualified for brownfield redevelopment assistance, requested by the city. “Michigan law allows the designation for properties that are functionally obsolete, as well as blighted and contaminated,” Shore tells GlobeSt.com. “This mall meets those qualifications. And anytime we can redevelop an existing property, at a minimum we’ve saved some green space and reduced sprawl, that’s the basis for our programs.”

The project includes the rehabilitation of a 100,000-sf anchor building and a 48,000-sf multiplex theater, similar to the existing $1.50 show theater at the mall now. Reportedly, the owners could begin demolition and construction by next spring. Company officials did not return calls for comment for this story.

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