By on April 21, 2017

Ford Fairlane Mall

The majority of today’s youth culture develops online but, for a number of years, it shared that space with the former cornerstone of American society — the mall. However, the once-great shopping center has fallen out of fashion along with wide-leg jeans and Jonathan Taylor Thomas. Since the late 1990s, most malls have gradually morphed into half-empty shanty towns or been abandoned entirely.

As part of Ford’s reoccurring requirement to appear forward thinking and socially conscious — as well as an immediate need for a location to house gobs of employees while it continues work on its Dearborn headquarters — the automaker had decided to make use of the partially abandoned Fairlane Mall. It may be the best implementation of its current focus on corporate citizenship and sustainability to date.  

Of course, I have a soft spot for this particular shopping center. Having grown up in Southeastern Michigan, I spent the occasional Saturday at the Fairlane Mall playing Virtual Fighter machines and trying to convince my grandparents to purchase die-cast model cars for me. Built in 1976, its impractical but retro-futuristic styling was charmingly reminiscent of the domed architecture in Logan’s Run — which, unsurprisingly, was also filmed inside a mall.

However, Fairlane started getting sad during my early teenage years and approached partial dilapidation right around the time I received my license. Despite having weathered the changing consumer trends better than most, the mall continued losing money for years and was eventually sold to the Starwood Capital Group in 2014.

“Retail has shifted so much over the years and Fairlane is no different,” says Rita Nelson, Fairlane Town Center’s general manager. “We have more than 125 stores and restaurants but like much of the industry, we have expanded to include other opportunities.”

Ford Fairlane Mall

The opportunities of which she is speaking is Ford’s reoccupation of a former retail wing that once housed outlets for DSW, Lord & Taylor, and Macy’s. According to Ford, the new offices focus on creativity, collaboration, wellness, and sustainability. While there is little reason to assume the automaker will stay within the mall once its nearby Dearborn campus’ modernization is completed in a few years, it is nice not to have to see another slice of Michigan go unused for the time being.

Besides, Ford has produced an interesting work environment for its employees. The lobby and lounge areas are beyond expansive and there are multiple dining options within walking distance.

“As we began the 10-year process of constructing new technology labs and offices, we needed an innovative solution to situate larger teams close to our operations,” said Dave Dubensky, chairman and CEO of Ford’s land development, in a statement. “The proximity and design of Fairlane Mall, along with its on-site amenities support our transformation in offering multiple conveniences for our employees. It is a win-win for us and the community.”

Ford Fairlane Mall

[Images: Ford Motor Co.]

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

Recommended

78 Comments on “Ford Now Doing Business out of the Defunct Wing of the Fairlane Shopping Mall...”


  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    “It may be the best implementation of its current focus on corporate citizenship and sustainability to date.”

    @Matt – How many focus groups did you run that through before coming up with that verbiage? Perhaps we can leverage our strengths to address our weaknesses while generating synergies through our community partnerships.

    No hate, it just sounds like something that came out of Ford’s PR department and regurgitated for our reading pleasure.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      No no no, it’s leverage *synergies,* not strengths. *Synergies.*

      GOD.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        A retired surgeon I know told me about the game of Boardroom (Bullsh!t) Bingo.
        You bring your cards and check off each catchphrase/term as they surface. He’s done it a few times when he got weary of the bullsh!t at budget meetings.

        • 0 avatar
          golden2husky

          We sometimes download BS Bingo sheets online. Each is randomly generated with all those horrid business school terms. Empower, synergy, win-win, bandwith, deliverables, same page and on and on.. I did pass out the sheets at a meeting and we had a great laugh. Nobody had the courage to shout out BS though.

          • 0 avatar
            bunkie

            These people can’t help it. They have no idea how to express themselves clearly and to the point, so they slather it on.

            If I had a dime for every run-on list of meaningless tech buzzwords I’ve edited out of documents (only to have them re-inserted time and again like some linguistic form of whack-a-mole), I could retire today.

            By the way, my office building is connected to a mall. It can be very convenient, at times.

    • 0 avatar
      indi500fan

      Throw some Section 8 housing in the other half and you’ll get some diversity.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      They’re driving syngergistic solutions that maximize organic and inorganic growth, while delivering maximum shareholder value across the entire enterprise.

      • 0 avatar
        Matt Posky

        I’m especially guilty of giving Ford a hard time for this kind of verbiage — and for being more than a little sardonic when parroting it… or just a flat-out jerk. After all, I was the one who said the Ford sign blowing away was a message from God to change its PR strategy (and I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve snuck a Carr-E reference into its mobility updates).

        Although I am still glad to see Ford doing this, even if it did use it as another opportunity to bolster its new-and-improved corporate persona.

    • 0 avatar
      jalop1991

      http://dilbert.com/strip/1994-02-22

    • 0 avatar
      la834

      I heard it called “buzzword bingo” but otherwise same thing, we’d fill out our cards with dumb corporatespeak words during meetings and speeches after deciding what the losers have to buy the winner.

  • avatar
    rpm1200

    I hope they rebrand it as the Ford Fairlane Mall.

    • 0 avatar

      The mall is named Fairlane because it occupies a lot of the land that was formerly Fair Lane, Henry Ford’s estate. The Ford Fairlane car was named after the estate as well. Henry and Clara Ford’s mansion at Fair Lane still exists. I has been operated as a museum for decades and is currently undergoing restoration. It used to belong to UofM Dearborn but ownership was transferred to the non-profit that owns and operates the Edsel and Eleanor Ford estate at Gawker Point on Lake St. Clair.

      • 0 avatar
        Omnifan

        The property may have been part of Fair Lane, but I remember it as farm fields in the 50s. Fair Lane estate is further south along the Rouge River and I don’t think it ever was defined as far north as the mall. FoMoCo owned much of the land, but not as a part of the estate.

        The rest of the statement about the estate is correct.

        • 0 avatar
          mcs

          @Omnifan: The Fairlane Estate is due west of the mall. The mansion itself is as far north as the southern tip of the mall. The estate itself extended from Michigan Ave to Ford Rd. BTW, I grew up close by and spent a lot of time roaming the grounds.

  • avatar
    Polishdon

    You know, Ford could do a Chrysler with Fairlane. Take it over entirely, rebuild the inside and make in a totally enclosed central building for most (if not all) of FoMoCo’s operations.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      It wouldn’t work, for several reasons. Besides, that’s not what Chrysler did.

      • 0 avatar
        Polishdon

        I was not stating that Chrysler used a shopping mall. But they did move into a building that (per Chrysler) could have been converted into a mall if necessary.

        What I was saying is that Ford could take over the entire mall, it’s across the freeway from Ford World HQ. You could move entire car and truck design into the mall and have a design SIMILAR to what Chrysler pioneered in Auburn Hills.

        • 0 avatar
          JimZ

          I spent a couple of years with a desk in Auburn Hills. I can say for certain it would be a lot easier to turn CTC into a mall than it would to turn a mall into CTC. For one, the restroom facilities of a mall would be woefully inadequate if it was fully staffed by a car company. Second, all of the laboratories at CTC were on the ground floor, so you could drive a car/truck right into the building and to your lab. plus it had been designed with adequate ventilation to handle the running of cars and trucks inside the building. Fairlane Town Center has none of these, and if it was going to be used this way it’d be easier and cheaper to demolish it and start over.

          Which is basically what Ford is doing at the engineering campus already.

        • 0 avatar
          mcs

          @polishdon: I don’t think you realize how much space Ford’s car and truck engineering takes up. I’m familiar with the mall and there is no way they’d even hope to fit in there.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    And Dippin’ Dots is just down the hall!

  • avatar
    xtoyota

    I think Ford hit a home run and it might give others a possible of new business venture…… BUSINESS MALLS….MANUFACTURING MALLS…. Tech MALLS … SCHOOL MALLS

    A great use for those empty retail malls

  • avatar
    Advance_92

    Office furniture by Playskool

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    This is actually a terrific idea. I often wondered why more companies don’t take over space in all those half-empty malls.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      Securing the facility is a challenge.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        I’d have to think it’s not much more difficult than securing an office building or light-industrial warehouse.

        And if cities want people riding mass transit, malls are terrific – transit systems and routes are almost always designed around them.

        • 0 avatar
          DevilsRotary86

          I would love to see the company that my brother works for try moving into a mall. He actually works in a SCIF (Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility), or a facility certified to handle secret and top secret documents.

          Recently they made a move from an old aircraft factory into a building built for them. Well, kind of built for them. It was built by a real estate firm for my brother’s company but with an eye to leasing it in the future should the company later move out or go under. My brother told me that they argued quite awhile with the real estate company. Why? because they really didn’t want a building with windows, but of course it would be near impossible to later lease such a building on the open market. So now he works in an office building with big beautiful windows covered over with some sort of sheeting that is made of stuff that he doesn’t know and cant tell me if he did know, and is impervious to surveillance by optical, infrared, radio, graviton, and whatever means that they can’t confirm nor deny.

          So yeah, the thought of his company taking up the space vacated by Dillard’s next to the food court is a little funny.

    • 0 avatar
      indi500fan

      Many of the failed/dying malls (built in the 60s/70s) are now in neighborhoods that employees want to avoid.
      I’ve heard that some are used to house computer server farms, which don’t have a lot of employees involved.

      • 0 avatar
        OldManPants

        This.

        Anyone who doesn’t grasp this should take a walking tour through those “neighborhoods”.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        Some failed malls are in rough neighborhoods. But here in Denver, I can think of at least three failed malls, none of which were in even remotely bad parts of town.

        • 0 avatar
          ct06033

          Funny you mention Denver. DISH bought a bankrupt mall in littleton off santa fe and used it as their headquarters for a while. its a call center now but while I thought it would have been cool to retain some of the old store fronts, even in its stripped out state, its a pretty neat place to work.

      • 0 avatar
        DevilsRotary86

        Like Redbird Mall in South Dallas!

        It really isn’t a terrible neighborhood, I wouldn’t want to be there at night but in daylight it really isn’t bad. However a working knowledge of Spanish is beneficial.

        • 0 avatar
          golden2husky

          There was a great episode of “Abandoned” filmed in abandoned malls in Ohio. Very telling and very interesting.

          Interesting to note the mall closest to me (Walt Whitman Mall) has expanded and moved way upscale from its original roots. Even more funny it kind of makes a “mason-dixon” line between the have lots and the have less.

      • 0 avatar
        Steve Biro

        Here in New Jersey, most malls – even the troubled ones – are located off of highways in leafy suburbs. So the neighborhoods aren’t bad at all. Monmouth Mall in Eatontown, one of the nation’s first, came up with a clever idea of turning it into an outdoor mall (which would be a return to the way it was built in the 1950s) with mixed uses, including residential. The goal would have been to create a real downtown area for Eatontown, which is is classic example of suburban sprawl with no downtown. Not a bad idea, but of course the local NIMBYs successfully fought it. Where we are seeing successful conversions to business or health-care uses are in older strip malls.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      Public entities like public libraries have leased space in malls for some time now.

  • avatar
    Hamilton Guy

    This is not uncommon in Canada. Manulife took over a large chunk of a downtown mall in Kitchener that was vacant as a result of the demise of the T. Eaton Company and in London most of the Westmount Centre on Wonderland Road is now offices (a computer company whose Board I sit on is in there). Works very well, there is free underground parking for the staff and shops and restaurants in the part of the mall that is still retail.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    And here I was hoping to see that they had actually installed a dealership in there.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      Fairlane Ford, Jorgensen Ford, and Village Ford are all within a few miles of the mall on Michigan Ave.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      Numerous auto dealerships have opened up a mini-retail space in malls where people can look over (usually just a few models) and take interactive test drives.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        Imagine turning an entire wing of a mall into a full-service dealership. An old Sears would offer service space and indoor auto storage, Indoor parking for new inventory, HUGE showroom floor to present more than one version of each model, etc.

        • 0 avatar
          bd2

          Also know of a few dealerships located in former stand-alone department stores.

          Of course, these are huge mega-auto dealerships with numerous brands under one umbrella.

          Kinda weird to see the huge parking lots filled with brand new autos (and still plenty of parking space to be had).

  • avatar
    Thatkat09

    “most malls have gradually morphed into half-empty shanty towns or been abandoned entirely.”

    Im more than certain thats false. Not every part of the country is a declining rust belt manufacturing town.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      Yeah, in some areas, malls/shopping centers are actually expanding and you see “help wanted” signs at the big box stores year round.

    • 0 avatar
      OldManPants

      “Not every part of the country is a declining rust belt manufacturing town.”

      True, but you’re all still on the hook to help subsidize our inmates, baby mommas and all their droppings (increasingly white…Progress!).

      Neener

  • avatar
    sgeffe

    Hmm. So Fairlane is circling the drain, essentially. Wonder how the other malls from the Detroit area of my youth (’70s-’80s) are doing.

    I would think that Eastland Mall at 8 Mile and Kelly is likely a no-man’s land, the way the blight has spread north, AFAIK. Hudson’s and Penney’s were the two anchors. Is Marshall Field’s in there now?

    I know that Crowley’s left Macomb Mall before my family moved to Toledo in 1984, if memory serves. I assume Sears is still there as an anchor? Lots of other retail blossomed up there last time I was up I-94/13 Mile/Gratiot way.

    Oakland Mall was similar to Macomb, with a Sears and Hudson’s. Presumably, Fields is there now? That and Lakeside are right in the middle of the booming part of the Detroit metro; Somerset Collection also caters to the new money in Oakland County.

    Anything I’m missing, Detroiters?

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      you’re a bit behind.

      Eastland Mall is dead man walking. Macy’s just closed their store (Macy’s bought Marshall Fields years ago) and Sears has been gone for a bit. Penney’s has been out of there for *years*. Which would leave Target and Burlington Coat Factory their only remaining anchor stores. Plus, its owners have been in default on their financing for a while.

      Macomb Mall has had Dick’s Sporting Goods come in and build a new attached building as an anchor store and is hanging on, though I expect Sears to be gone before not too long. Oakland Mall seems okay-ish; Macy’s isn’t closing that store and they’ve had a Field & Stream open up on the grounds.

      I don’t know about Lakeside; they’re in a good spot but the open-air Partridge Creek a few miles east has probably stolen some of their customers.

      And screw Somerset Collection. Snooty jagoffs.

      • 0 avatar
        Jagboi

        ” I expect Sears to be gone before not too long”

        As in leaving the mall, or Sears going bankrupt? Does anybody shop at Sears anymore?

        • 0 avatar
          DevilsRotary86

          I stopped once I discovered Northern Tool

        • 0 avatar
          JimZ

          Sears going bankrupt

          • 0 avatar
            sgeffe

            Yes..there was somebody, maybe a month ago, perhaps even from Sears corporate, who predicted that they’re “dead store shopping.”

            Where in the hell have I been re: Macy’s?! :-O It’s pretty much Dillard’s and Penney’s in the Toledo area, with one Macy’s at Franklin Park Mall, the last “traditional” enclosed shopping center here. (They’re doing well enough, even with two outdoor shopping areas which have popped up in the last 15 years. Although, they have to keep a real close watch on gang activity there; there are curfews for minors there, and similar activity killed a smaller mall here, around Lakeside-sized, ca. 1970s, maybe fifteen years ago, and the online competition took out two more, with a third, south of the metro, in the college town of Bowling Green, hanging on by a thin Hot Sam pretzel, an Orange Julius straw, a stale Cinnabon, a moldy Sbarro crust, whatever!)

            Franklin Park, surprisingly, just opened a new Dave & Busters; surprising because there’s plenty of property in the area around the intersection of the Ohio Turnpike/I-80 and I-75, which would have seemed to me to have been a better choice for such a “destination” establishment, a la the one at Hall Road and the Van Dyke Expressway (M-59 & M-53), just up the street from Lakeside.

      • 0 avatar
        mcs

        @jimz: How is Fairlane Green doing? When I was last there, it seemed to be doing well. It’s not that far from Fairlane Town Center.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      oh, and I wouldn’t say Fairlane is “circling the drain.” Apart from Ford taking over the (long closed) Lord & Taylor store and part of the adjacent concourse, the mall still has pretty high occupancy.

    • 0 avatar
      MWolf

      I was in Eastland a couple years back. That Macy’s was HUGE. I liked it because it had the cool bookshelves and old wood floors in one area. Shame it’s gone, but I doubt anything will take that space again. That mall, if memory serves, felt like it was dying then. I end up there every once in a while because my SO has family there.

      Detroit is a trip. If you’re there, please don’t take the food for granted. Go to Wah Hong for some AWESOME sweet and sour pork (I got there in a 1929 Studebaker Commander once).

  • avatar
    relton

    When it was built, the mall had a monorail that went over to the adjacent hotel. There were 2 cars, and they met, and passed, in the middle.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      Yeah..that was a very upscale area in general..that hotel was a Hyatt Regency, and then was a Ritz-Carlton property — and might still be.

      Apparently, not enough rich folk going in there to make a weekend of it, between Greenfield Village/Henry Ford Museum and the other stuff to do in The D. (Of course, the downtown area is where it’s at now.) Perhaps the evolving demographics in the immediate Dearborn area might also play a role.

      Probably folks jetting into Metro Airport in the afternoon, spend the night on an expense account, meetings at the Glass House the next day, then back out to Metro for the flight home. At least with the arrangement noted in the article, they might not need an umbrella on a day threatening storms, a coat on a typical winter day in Michigan, and might only need a rental car or Über to get to/from Metro instead of driving up the street to the Glass House.

  • avatar
    rpn453

    Vice had a TV series called Abandoned that I found interesting. One episode focused on malls. It was surreal seeing malls that would have looked pretty new when I was young, being left to rot.

    The six malls in my city appear to be fairly healthy. Our population has been growing steadily around them. I don’t imagine they’ll be building any more of them though. It’s all big box stores now.

  • avatar
    Hamilton Guy

    ‘Murica massively overbuilt malls pre 2008. There was an article in the Economist magazine which gave stats that suggested America had 40% greater mall capacity than Canada on a per 1000 population basis and even larger over capacity compare to other 1st world countries (12X Germany IIRC)

    With that sort of over build it is no wonder that you have zombie malls.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I read somewhat recently the buildup was part of some sort of trend or strategy of the Bush Administration/leadership of the time. Something to the effect of literally, get people shopping again. Brilliant, right?

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      Which is made that much worse by the rise of online retailing.

      Amazon has surpassed Macy’s Inc. as the #1 apparel retailer.

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        Didn’t know Macy’s was up there — I thought that it might have been Kohl’s or Penney’s. I figured Amazon was probably in the top three of retailers, but not the numero uno in apparel! Folks usually like to try before they buy, but usually, garments from a given manufacturer/designer/whatever are pretty consistent in fit. (Hell, men’s sport shirts and stuff like that from multiple retailers like L.L. Bean and Land’s End are probably identical garments made in the same sweatshops!)

        • 0 avatar
          bd2

          There was that massive consolidation of dept. stores some years ago where Macy’s Inc. (formerly Federated Dept. Stores) acquired Macy’s/Bloomingdale’s and then numerous regional dept. store chains when they acquired May Dept. Stores which had regional dept. store chains like Marshall Field’s, Kaufmann’s, Hecht’s, Strawbridge’s, Filene’s, etc.

          And then proceeded to turn them all into Macy’s stores which really pissed of locals (esp. in Chicago where Marshal Field’s was a proud name).

  • avatar
    Adam_

    So can I finally get a Conti IV like Frank Cannon’s?

  • avatar
    Big Al From 'Murica

    When I worked for Lowe’s corporate they had done the same thing. The company took over a failed mall in North Wilkesboro and used it as their headquarters. It was pretty neat in it’s implementation bit the realities of having to try and recruit talent to come to the area (the schools stunk and it was basically a small town) meant they eventually built in Mooresville NC which made for a far crummier commute.

  • avatar
    AoLetsGo

    I have been in many malls in the US and many of them are very sad looking.
    With Macy’s, Sears and Penney all closing many stores and accelerating that trend in the future mall futures are very dark (get it malls and stores go “dark” when they are vacant).
    Of the several mall redo’s my favorite is Windsor Park mall in San Antonio. Rackspace took over the whole thing for their offices and remodeled, it looks like a big playground for overgrown kids, with slides, primary colors, and toys.
    Check it out:
    29.507454, -98.394201

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • teddyc73: Why? Because people like them. Or should I say….Because “people” like “them”....
  • teddyc73: I’m sure some people would dispute those claims.
  • Jarred Fitzgerald: Well, that’s China for you, always with the “imitation game.” Though I have to...
  • threeer: My sister bought a 1997 Toyota Tercel under the guise of needing a cheap and economical commuter car. We...
  • focaltac: More like Tigershart.

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Matthew Guy
  • Timothy Cain
  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Chris Tonn
  • Corey Lewis
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber