Ford Now Doing Business Out of the Defunct Wing of the Fairlane Shopping Mall

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

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.”

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.”

[Images: Ford Motor Co.]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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  • Art Vandelay Art Vandelay on Apr 22, 2017

    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.

  • AoLetsGo AoLetsGo on Apr 23, 2017

    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

  • Dave M. The Outback alternates between decent design and goofy design every generation. 2005 was attractive, 2010 goofy. 2015 decent. 2020 good, but the ‘23 refresh hideous.Looking forward to the Outback hybrid in ‘26…..
  • Lorenzo Subaru had the ideal wagon - in 1995. The Legacy Outback was a straight two-box design with rear quarter and back windows you could see out of, and was available in brown with a 5-speed manual, as God and TTAC commenters intended. It's nice they're not raising prices, but when you've lost the plot, does it matter?
  • Bkojote Remember a month a go when Cleveland wanted to create a more walkable Cleveland and TTAC's 'BIG GOVERNMENT IS THE PROBLEM' dumbest and dullest all collectively crapped their diapers? Here's the thing- look on any American highway and it's littered with people who don't /want/ to be driving or shouldn't be. Look at every Becky on her phone during the morning commute in her Tucson, look at every Brad aggro driving his 84 month loan GMC. Hell look how many drivers nowadays can't even operate a headlight switch. You expect these people to understand a stoplight? In my neighborhood alone 4 people have been rear ended at lights from someone on their phone. Distracted driving over the past 10 years has spiked, and it's only going to get worse unless Becky has an alternative, because no judge is going to pull her license when 'she needs it to get to work!' but heaven forbid she not check fb/tiktok for 40 minutes a day.
  • Scott Shouldn't the The Italian Minister for Business be criticizing The Milano for being too ugly to be Italian?Better use of resources doing that....
  • Steve Biro Frankly, while I can do without Eyesight and automatic start-stop, there is generally less B-S with Subarus in terms of design, utility and off-road chops than with many other brands. I just hope that when they adopt Toyota’s hybrid system, they’ll also use Toyota’s eCVT.