Universal Mall in Warren, Mich., plans redevelopment

Mall developers rebuilding mall into an open-air structure


Feb. 15--Like outdated garments, an aging mall will be redesigned to reflect a more fashionable trend.

Universal Mall, at Dequindre near 12 Mile, is undergoing redevelopment to convert the 1960s-era enclosed structure to an open-air plaza, commonly known as a lifestyle center, by the end of this year.

"I'm obviously excited that a mall that has fallen into decline for some time is finally being revitalized," Warren Mayor Jim Fouts said. "It means that Warren is moving forward and it means that even in the toughest and most trying times in our recent history, we're getting some development."

The plans for the renamed Universal Shopping Center have been in the works for a couple of years, but construction got in full swing in the fall with help from state tax and Brownfield Redevelopment incentives. While there will be openings for new businesses in upcoming months, the project -- which is estimated to cost $25 million -- is expected to be completed around December, said Marilyn Zeigler, general manager for Universal Mall Properties in Warren.

It will feature more than 600,000 square feet of new retail and commercial space along with new lighting, signs, landscaping and parking, Zeigler said.

The retail project is meant to keep pace with changing times in which shoppers often flock to outdoor malls such as the Mall at Partridge Creek in Clinton Township and the Village of Rochester Hills, she said.

"We wanted to do it for the area. This is an exceptional area," she said. "The shopping center grew old, as we all do. It took a lot of money to keep ongoing maintenance and repair. It was just time."

Bob Tess, economic development manager for Macomb County, thinks changing the structure to an open mall is wise.

"That seems to be the trend and it certainly has attracted retail shoppers from a fairly broad demographic," Tess said.

Today, scaffolds, gates, tarps and construction machines are commonplace at the work site.

Stores like Burlington Coat Factory, A.J. Wright, Kroger and other businesses remain open along with a Cinemark Movies.

Meanwhile, Universal Mall Properties anticipates Target as its flagship anchor on the site while a Petco and Del Taco restaurant also are expected to join the development.

"When you pull into a new shopping center, you just feel better about shopping," said Nora Manjo, who manages a Verizon Wireless store on the site.

While business has dropped since construction began, Manjo thinks the store will thrive after the project is finished.

"It's going to be great down the line, but it's hurting now," she said.