Michigan Avenue / US 12 and Evergreen Road
Dearborn, Michigan

One of America's most futuristic Mid-20th Century shopping malls was built on a 275 acre plot, located 12.3 miles west of center city Detroit. FAIRLANE TOWN CENTER was a joint venture of the Bloomfield Hills, Michigan-based Taubman Company and Dearborn-based Ford Motor Land Development Company. It was the centerpiece of Ford's master-planned, 2,360 acre, Fairlane community.

Like Chicago's WOODFIELD MALL and San Jose's EASTRIDGE CENTER (two other Taubman properties), FAIRLANE TOWN CENTER consisted of two retail levels, with a smaller third floor sandwiched between the two at the center of the center.

Dedicated March 1, 1976, the mall was anchored by a 2-level (244,000 square foot) Sears and 2-level (200,000 square foot) J.C. Penney. A 3-level (240,000 square foot) Detroit-based Hudson's was completed in July 1976.

Charter tenants in the 1,279,000 square foot complex included The Gap, Waldenbooks, Olga's Kitchen and Youth Center. The Fairlane Ice Arena, an indoor skating rink, opened March 3, 1976. On the level above it was the 5-screen The Movies At Fairlane multiplex.

Commercial competitors of FAIRLANE TOWN CENTER included NORTHLAND CENTER (1954) {8.7 miles northeast, in Southfield}, WONDERLAND CENTER (1959) {6.5 miles northwest, in Livonia}, WESTLAND CENTER (1965) {8.4 miles northwest, in Westland}, and SOUTHLAND CENTER (1970) {7.8 miles southwest, in Taylor}.

The most noteworthy feature of the 1970s FAIRLANE was its ACTS, or Automatically-Controlled Transportation System. Originally proposed as a double-tracked, 2 mile loop, the people mover was to link the Ford World Headquarters, an office complex, FAIRLANE TOWN CENTER and a new Hyatt Hotel.

The system put into service in March 1976 had been scaled down to operate over a half-mile of track. Its elevated guideway connected Level 2 of the mall with the adjoining Hyatt Regency Dearborn. Serving as Ford's experiment in personal rapid transit technology, the ACTS was dismantled and removed from the premises in 1989.

In the meantime, FAIRLANE TOWN CENTER had been expanded. A 2-level (122,000 square foot) Lord & Taylor opened, in conjunction with a new store at Greater Detroit's TWELVE OAKS MALL, on March 6, 1978. A 2-level (90,000 square foot) Saks Fifth Avenue came inline in 1980. The five-anchor shopping hub now encompassed 1,491,000 leasable square feet.

Changes were also made to the existing cinema complex. In 1983, the Ice Arena was retrofitted as five additional cinematic auditoriums. This structure was razed in 1998 and replaced by the Loeks Star Theatre, which opened for business in the summer of 1999. Today, after a couple of nameplate changes, it operates as the AMC Star Fairlane 21.

Nameplate replacements for the mall's anchor stores had begun in November 1997, when Saks Fifth Avenue was demoted to a 1-level (30,000 square foot) Saks Off Fifth clearance store. Hudson's was rebranded, as a Chicago-based Marshall Field's, in August 2001. This store was "Macy-ated" September 9, 2006.

In the previous August, Lord & Taylor had pulled out of the mall. Saks Off Fifth was shuttered December 31, 2007. The building was demolished soon after, with a new Restaurant Wing being built on its space.

The 25,000 square foot project would add P.F. Chang's China Bistro and Bravo! Cucina Italiana to the mall. Both casual dining restaurants served their first patrons November 18, 2008. The adjusted GLA of FAIRLANE TOWN CENTER was now 1,426,000 leasable square feet, with a retail roster of one hundred and fifty-eight stores and services.

In June 2014, Taubman Centers sold FAIRLANE TOWN CENTER to Starwood Retail Partners, an affiliate of Greenwich, Connecticut's Starwood Capital Group. The transaction included seven shopping malls; these located in Michigan, Texas, Florida, North Carolina and Virginia. 

After sitting vacant for 10 years, the Lord & Taylor building was repurposed. The Ford Motor Company leased it, and an additional 100,000 square feet of inline store space, in April 2016. This area was utilized for a consolidation of Ford's research and engineering hub.


"Fairlane Town Center" article on Wikipedia
Malls of America Blogspot / Keith Milford webmaster / Post by Chuck Brillowski


Jonah N. said...

Which Fort Worth mall had it? I have a list of *most* of the malls in the DFW metroplex, but which one was it?

The Curator said...


FAIRLANE TOWN CENTER was the only regional-class, suburban shopping center in the United States with its own people mover system.

The earlier counterpart retail rapid transit line was in Fort Worth, Texas.

The Leonard's department store, in downtown Fort Worth, built a .7 mile subway line to connect it with parking areas nearby. It was known as the Leonards M & O Subway and opened in February 1963.

The store and subway were sold to the Tandy Corporation in 1967. In 1974 the new TANDY CENTER was completed. It was to feature two, 20-story office towers (completed in 1976 and 1978).

These were linked by a small, 4-level, inner city shopping arcade that replaced the old Leonard's store buildings and a part of 2nd Street.

The arcade/mall included a new Dillard's store and ice rink. The original subway was refurbished and given a new name, the Tandy Center Subway. It was worked in as a part of the office and retail development.

The inner city shopping gallery deal was never successful. By 1996 it had been relegated to a discount center....FORTH WORTH OUTLET SQUARE. Dillard's had pulled out by this time.

Tandy/Radio Shack Corporation sold the property in 2001. Soon, a redevelopment plan was put forward. The subway was shut down August 2002.

TANDY CENTER/FORT WORTH OUTLET SQUARE was demolished in 2008. It is being redeveloped as CITY PLACE, a mixed-use residential and office center with 75,000 square feet of retail.

Paul said...

What about the monorail at the Pearlridge Mall in Aiea, Hawaii? It connects the two wings of the shopping center, separated by the Sumida watercress farm, whose owner refused to sell out.


The Curator said...


We learn something new every day...hee hee.

I have researched this "shopping mall mass transit" thing more thoroughly than I did when hastily throwing this article together.

With the info I found, I rewrote some of the copy in the FAIRLANE TOWN CENTER article. I hope that it now more accurately portrays the facts.

I may be splitting hairs here, but I left the reference to FAIRLANE TC as "the first -and only- mall with its own AGT (automated guideway transit) System" intact.

There is (well..WAS) the Tandy Subway, at TANDY CENTER in Fort Worth, but it was an LRT (light rail transit) system that used refurbished/restyled 1930s-vintage PCC (President's Conference Committee) streetcars.

And, of course, there is, as you pointed out, the Skycab monorail at Honolulu's PEARLRIDGE CENTER. This system utilyzes monorail technology.

Perhaps as a further footnote, WESTLAKE CENTER, in downtown Seattle, is serviced by the Seattle Center Monorail, but this application is not operated by General Growth Properties (owners of this inner city shopping center).

So, the aforementioned operations are/were basically three different kinds of transport systems. The FAIRLANE ACTS used rubber tires, The Tandy Subway had steel wheels....and the PEARLRIDGE Skycab and Seattle Center monorails don't have wheels at all.

Thanks so much for posting the info.


TenPoundHammer said...

You missed one junior anchor, DSW. It opened in the Lord & Taylor wing in the early 2000s. Also, H&M took most of the middle level in 2008.

The Curator said...

10 Pound,

Thanks for the details....and for perusing and posting.


Anonymous said...

Interesting foot note to Ten Pound Hammers comment about H & M taking up the middle floor. It's true, BUT the middle floor was actually gutted to raise the ceiling levels for that store to open at Fairlane. Those first level store an LOW cave like ceiling levels. Overall, the mall lost about 25,000 sf of selling space to accomidate this store design. Good risk to take since Fairlane is not really what it had been in the 80's!

The Curator said...


Thanks much for posting.

Happy New Year!

Joseph Savickas said...

It wasn't a roller rink!! It was an ice rink!!

The Curator said...

So sorry!!!


Darius Wilder said...

Taubman Centers has sold Fairlane Town Center this year because it's no longer an "upscale mall."

Anonymous said...

I seem to recall that this opened more or less at the same time as Lakeside Center in Sterling Heights, also developed by Taubman and with a similar roster of tenants. the Lord & taylors opened together, so Lakeside might have opened later.

Darius Wilder said...

And Forever 21 also occupies a huge portion of the upper lever.