FAIRLANE TOWN CENTER
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.

Sources:

"Fairlane Town Center" article on Wikipedia
www.shopfairlane.com
Malls of America Blogspot / Keith Milford webmaster / Post by Chuck Brillowski
http://www.crainsdetroit.com