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               WONDERLAND MALL: LIVONIA (DETROIT), MI

Cactus Bob's Commentary:

Posted February 9, 2005 (user submitted)

Wonderland was originally an outdoor mall, enclosed in the 1980s. It was built on the site of an airport. Woolworth was also an orignal anchor along with Wards. This Woolworth apparently hung on till the end of the chain, and later became the prototype FYE. Foland's, which was a Detroit-based chain, was added most likely in the early 80s, when the mall was enclosed. Target was added in the late 1980s. Foland's closed and became Service Merchandise in the early 1990s, it seems. After Service Merch closed, it was supposed to become a Burlington Coat Factory, but that never happened, so when Wards closed, it was only a matter of time for Wonderland, which hobbled into the 21st century on just one anchor.

The Boardwalk Cafés food court was actuallly a remodel of the 80s-era Eaton Place food court. Eaton Place had a weird shape like a sideways "K", but Boardwalk was just a straight line. (Besides the food court, there was also an Elias Brothers restaurant, which later became Big Boy.) Mazel's, a regional chain similar to Big Lots, came in the 1990s. They replaced an American Eagle outlet store. I believe that Mazel's has since re-located to an off-mall location. (For the record, several of the big boxes near Wonderland, such as Waldenbooks & More, may have opened as early as the mid-1980s!)

The whole mall was shuttered in 2003. The last inline store to close up was GNC, and the whole mall was open just for GNC traffic -- no corridors were roped off, ever! Office Max and Dunhams, both of which had outside access, closed not long after. The mall was supposed to have been demolished in 2004, but the empty building still remains, as does the dead Kmart behind the mall. The plans call for a strip mall, anchored by Target and two other anchors. Also, the Target is slated to be remodeled into Michigan's second Target Greatland.

One of the major things that killed off Wonderland was Westland Center, four miles away in the suburb of Westland. This mall started out in 1968 with Kresge, Kroger, and Hudson's as anchors. But over the years, Westland has grown to a prosperous super-regional mall, more than twice as big as Wonderland. Westland is currently anchored by Marshall Fields, Kohl's, Sears, and JCPenney. However, to this day, Westland still lacks a food court!

As for Livonia's other malls, Livonia Mall, built in 1964, might soon get a spot on this page too, as it is losing tenants left and right. It still has Mervyn's, Value City (formerly Crowley's), Sears, Jo-Ann Fabrics, and an AMC theatre, however. Laurel Park Place, built in 1989, is a more upscale mall, and seems to be doing well despite the recent loss of their rather large Sam Goody/Suncoast combo.

And finally, Wonderland Mall's website from 2000 is still up! You can find this site at: http://www.imsdesign.net/wonderland/

Greg's Commentary:

Posted February 9, 2005 (user submitted)

Wonderland Mall, Michigan's third-oldest mall, opened in 1959 in the western Detroit suburb of Livonia. This 850,000 sq. ft. mall had Montgomery Ward as its original anchor. Later on Target, Foland's (a catalog store), Amazing Savings (formerly Mazel's), Dunham's Sporting Goods, and Office Max joined the anchor lineup. It also was the first mall in metro Detroit to offer kiddie train rides, and used that as a selling point in its promotions.

The layout of Wonderland was similar to a "TTT" look. At the left end of the first "T" were Wards and Amazing Savings. An AMC 6-screen multiplex was situated at the right end of the last "T". The three wings that spurred off the "T"s, from left to right, were Dunham's/Office Max, Foland's, and Target.

After a while Wonderland began to update its mix of stores. Entertainment venues such as the AMC theater and Jeepers, a kids' pizza restaurant similar to Chuck. E. Cheese's, opened. It was also home to an FYE prototype store. Widespread mall-based stores such as Old Navy, Bath & Body Works, Dollar Tree, Claire's, and Famous Footwear set up shop in the midst of many other independently-owned stores. Service Merchandise moved in when Foland's went out of business in the early 90s.

Even though the economy was booming in the 90s, Wonderland Mall was going downhill. It became a breeding ground for crime. This deterred many customers and made them flee to newer suburban malls. After that, security guards patrolled the mall in golf carts to try to give shoppers a sense of safety.

Wonderland also lost business because it faced fierce competition from two other malls in Livonia, which are Livonia Mall and Laurel Park Place. Livonia Mall had a similar mix of stores as Wonderland, but it was safer and anchored by Mervyn's, Sears and Value City. Laurel Park Place is home to more upscale stores such as Parisian, Von Maur, and a Marriott hotel. Also, big-box stores such as Sports Authority, Media Play, Party City, Office Depot, and Waldenbooks & More sprung up across the street and took advantage of the mall's demise.

As the years went by, Wonderland was losing stores faster than it could fill them. At the end of the 90s, Service Merchandise closed its store as part of a reorganization. Wards went bankrupt at the end of 2000. AMC shut down its theater because it has two newer multiplexes in Livonia. Dunham's and Office Max later pulled out. An eight-unit food court, the Boardwalk Caf‚s, was built in a desperate attempt to revive the mall. It was placed between the second and third "T"s. Now the food court is empty.

In 2003 the management announced that Wonderland would be demolished. They are looking at sometime in 2005 to raze this dark and dreary mall. A proposed idea is to transform it into a power center and expand Target into a Super Target. Otherwise it could be a mixed-use development with some residences.

Links:

Wonderland Mall pic site.
Wonderland Mall sign pics
Demolition Pics and first-person testimonials










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