PONTIAC MALL
Telegraph Road / US 24 and Elizabeth Lake Road
Oakland County, Michigan

The first interior mall in -or around- the Motor City was built on 76 acres, located 24 miles northwest of downtown Detroit, in an unincorporated section of Oakland County known as Waterford Township. Developed by a joint venture of Aaron H. Gershenson and the Wineman Investment Company, PONTIAC MALL was designed by the Charles N. Agree firm.

Originally encompassing approximately 389,500 leasable square feet, the single-level center was anchored by a 2-level (145,100 square foot) Montgomery Ward, which opened for business February 1, 1962. A 1-level (86,000 square foot), Hudson's Budget Store held its grand opening, along with the mall, in April 1962.

A (34,000 square foot) S.S. Kresge was situated at the center of the center. The mall's charter tenant list included Zuieback's Suburban ladies' wear, Marianne Shops ladies' wear, Baker's Shoes, Grinnell's Music, Singer Sewing Center, Bond Clothes and Cunningham Drug. An outparcel structure north of Montgomery Ward housed a Savon supermarket, which was rebannered as a Farmer Jack grocery store in 1967.

Anchor stores at PONTIAC MALL were enlarged in the mid-1960s. Ward's was expanded, with an eastern addition, to 200,600 square feet. The Hudson's Budget Store was increased in size with a western addition and upper level. The structure re-opened, as a full-line (285,000 square foot) Hudson's, on July 25, 1967. The mall now housed approximately 655,500 leasable square feet.

It wasn't long before PONTIAC MALL began to encounter commercial competition. TEL-TWELVE MALL {11 miles south, in Southfield} and OAKLAND MALL {11.8 miles southeast, in Troy} were completed in 1968. The next rival, TWELVE OAKS MALL {14.9 miles southwest, in Novi} opened in 1977.

A 2 level (214,300 square foot) Sears was built on the northern section of the mall site and was completed in 1973. The General Cinema Corporation Pontiac Mall Cinema I & II was built on a pad southwest of Sears. The venue showed its first features March 14, 1973. It was eventually reconfigured as a tri-plex and was shuttered in 1993.

A major mall expansion was underway by late 1987. A meandering, fully-enclosed mallway was built, which ran westward from the existing Montgomery Ward Court and connected with a 2-level (151,700 square foot) J.C. Penney. This new store was in business by October 1988.

The new concourse continued northward to the 14-bay Picnic Food Court. From there, it proceeded northeast, to a 1-level (80,700 square foot), Bannockburn, Illinois-based MainStreet (soon rebranded as a Kohl's). The final mallway segment extended northward, linking with the existing Sears.

In all, 459,200 square feet of retail area was added to the shopping complex, which, by late 1989, encompassed 1,340,000 leasable square feet and housed one hundred and forty-eight stores and services. As a facet of the expansion, the name of the complex had been changed to SUMMIT PLACE MALL.

Three strip centers were built in the mega mall's periphery; OAKLAND POINTE (1988), SUMMIT WEST (1991) and SUMMIT NORTH (1993). The combined GLA of SUMMIT PLACE MALL and its peripheral plazas was over 2.5 million square feet.

The sprawling shopping district would enjoy only 10 years of success. In the early 1990s, the SUMMIT PLACE MALL Hudson's was downsized, with a Brentwood, Tennessee-based Service Merchandise occupying the western quarter of the building. This store closed in March 1999.

2001 brought the shuttering of Montgomery Ward and the rebranding of Hudson's as a Chicago-based Marshall Field's. By this time, SUMMIT PLACE was in competition with GREAT LAKES CROSSING {4 miles northeast, in Auburn Hills}. This outlet-format complex opened in 1998. Soon, it was draining commerce from the older shopping venue.

Chicago-based General Growth Properties sold SUMMIT PLACE to the Los Angeles-based Namco Capital Group in 2002. The new proprietor soon embarked on a reinvention of the struggling center. A name change to FESTIVALS OF WATERFORD was proposed, along with a new family fun center. This was to include a children's play area and indoor waterpark (to be installed in the vacant Montgomery Ward).

The play area was dedicated in December 2002. However, the waterpark concept was abandoned. The SUMMIT PLACE Marshall Field's was "Macy-ated" in September 2006. Vacancies piled up in the mall proper as well as its three satellite strip centers. The shuttering of Kohl's, in March 2009, was followed by the closing of all mall concourses, on September 19, 2009.

Three exterior-entranced anchor stores remained in business. However, Macy's shut down in March 2010, with J.C. Penney following suit in April. This left only Sears in business. Sears Holdings pulled the plug on their SUMMIT PLACE store in December 2014.

Meanwhile, Namco Capital had defaulted on their loan. Ownership of the virtually vacant mall reverted to the lender, Santa Monica-based SD Capital, in March 2010. Over the ensuing years, various redevelopment scenarios came and went. The complex was listed on the open market, with an asking price of 10 million dollars. There were no takers.

A proposal, to tear down most of the rapidly decaying structure and incorporate the remainder into a "youth sports and entertainment megaplex", came to light in April 2017. A clandestine group of investors signed an initial land purchase agreement. If all goes as planned, the long-awaited SUMMIT PLACE MALL redevelopment could get underway in late 2017.

Sources:

"Summit Place Mall" article on Wikipedia
Malls of America Blogspot, Keith Milford, webmaster
Comment post by "WhoGoesWhere"
http://www.labelscar.com / "Prange Way"
http://www.loopnet.com
http://www.spinalcolumnonline.com
http://www.departmentstoremuseum.org (Department Store Museum)
The Detroit Free Press
The Oakland Press
http://www.crainsdetroit.com