JEEPERS! WONDERLAND MALL SPORTS FUN LOOK
MAY 1, 1999 12:00 PM, JOHN MCCLOUD
A MAKEOVER NOW IN PROGRESS at Wonderland Mall in Livonia, Mich., is less a new project than the continuation of a process of change that has been ongoing since Schostak Brothers & Co. Inc. bought the property in 1983.
Originally opened in 1959, the Montgomery Ward-anchored Wonderland Mall was considerably outdated at the time of purchase. At only 600,000 sq. ft., it was small by '80s standards, and unlike most other Snowbelt malls, it was not enclosed, consisting instead of four entirely separate, open-air segments.
Metamorphosis Schostak quickly set about to bring it into the contemporary world. The Southfield, Mich.-based developer hired architects Wah Yee Associates of Farmington Hills, Mich., to come up with a plan to unify and enclose the four segments. The transformation, which was completed in 1985, had the added benefit of creating 100,000 sq. ft. of new GLA from the spaces between the original segments.
In 1989, the company added Target and a six-screen AMC Theatre, and in the early '90s, it brought in Service Merchandise, OfficeMax and Dunham's Sporting Goods for additional anchor spots. By that point, the center had grown to about 80 tenants and 862,000 sq. ft.
In late '97, the company initiated a new round of changes designed to "position Wonderland at the forefront of 21st century retail," says company co-president and COO Robert I. Schostak. Part cosmetic and part compositional, the changes include the $10 million conversion of a full wing into a 150,000 sq. ft. food and entertainment center, addition of new anchors and sub-anchors, relocation and expansion of many existing tenants, and a new focus on family apparel.
New tenants include Burlington Coat Factory, Old Navy and Bath & Body Works. Existing tenants undertaking expansions include Leather City and Foot Locker, which will open one of its first larger-format stores.
Solid demographics On the surface, Wonderland Mall would not seem to have needed a substantial makeover to maintain profitability. The dominant shopping center in its trade area, it has always done well and, according to Schostak, the demographics have changed little in the past 17 years. The area still offers "a lot of young families, great density and good income," he says. Furthermore, it is unlikely to face significant new competition because the area is effectively built out.
So why renovate? As Schostak puts it, "We saw an opportunity to reposition the mall to capture a greater part of the market and boost sales."
The company hired a marketing firm to conduct a survey of mall visitors and a telephone survey of randomly chosen area residents. The researchrevealed that people wanted a greater number of value-priced family and fashion apparel stores, more fashionable retailers, a cheerier environment and, above all, a greater range and number of entertainment choices, especially for families to enjoy together.
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