WONDERLAND CENTER
Plymouth and Middlebelt Roads
Livonia, Michigan

Michigans's fourth regional-class shopping complex started out as an open-air venue, as did NORTHLAND CENTER {in Southfield}, FRANDOR CENTER {in East Lansing} and EASTLAND CENTER {in Harper Woods}.

WONDERLAND CENTER was built on a 74 acre site, located 14 miles northwest of center city Detroit, in suburban Livonia. Originally encompassing 559,700 leasable square feet, the complex was anchored by a 2-level (139,300 square foot), Dearborn-based Federal's department store and 2-level (195,100 square foot) Montgomery Ward.

Louis G. Redstone was the principal architect of the project, assisted by Avner Naggar and Allan G. Agree. Redstone described the shopping center as a "festive and colorful environment" with "sprightly, good-natured attractive surroundings".

To achieve this goal, several artisans were enlisted to create the various visual elements used. The central mallway featured three fountains, five statues and three large murals...all of these influenced by similar installations in shopping malls designed by Victor Gruen.

At its formal dedication in August 1959, the retail roster of WONDERLAND CENTER featured Zuieback's Suburban ladies' wear, Winkelman's ladies' wear, Lerner Shops ladies' wear, Kinney Shoes, Leib Brothers, Singer Sewing Center, Rafter's Restaurant, F.W. Woolworth and S.S. Kresge 5 & 10s and Wrigley's Market and Food Fair grocery stores.

As a matter of note, Food Fair supermarkets in Michigan were not affiliated with the Philadelphia-based chain of the same name. The Michigan stores were an operative of Detroit-based Borman Food Stores, Incorporated, which also owned the smaller Savon chain. All stores in the Michigan-based Food Fair chain, as well as all Savon stores, were rebranded under the Farmer Jack banner in 1967.

Retail rivals of WONDERLAND CENTER were many. LIVONIA MALL {4 miles north, in Livonia} opened in 1964. WESTLAND CENTER {3 miles southwest, in Westland} came along in 1965. FAIRLANE TOWN CENTER {6.5 miles southeast, in Dearborn} was completed in 1976. Lastly, LAUREL PARK PLACE {5 miles northwest, also in Livonia} joined the fold in 1989.

The Federal's store had been shuttered in 1980. It was reconfigured into a (50,000 square foot) A.J. Foland catalog showroom. The remaining store space became the Eaton Place Food Court, which opened in July 1982. Sizzling Wok, Babka's and Potato Patch were some of its eighteen restaurants.

Given Michigan's harsh winters, it was inevitable that WONDERLAND CENTER would have been roofed-in at some point in time. This conversion got underway in late 1984, spearheaded by the Livonia-based Schostak Brothers Company, who had established full ownership of the property in April 1983.

The 32 million dollar remodeling was conceptualized by Farmington Hills, Michigan-based Wah Yee Associates and would be completed in two phases. During the first, existing anchors and store blocks were joined by climate-controlled mallway. 100,000 square feet of shopping space was added between Foland's and Ward's.

Newly-air-conditioned concourses were fitted with tile flooring, fountains, skylights and seating areas. The revitalized retail hub, now known as WONDERLAND MALL, was dedicated in November 1985. New stores included Designer Depot (in the old S.S. Kresge) and Gantos Bargain Boutique.

A second remodeling phase got underway in late 1988, which consisted of a west end addition. A 1-level (129,100 square foot) Target held its grand opening on October 8, 1989. The American Multi-Cinema Wonderland 6 Theatres debuted on October 27.

WONDERLAND MALL stores dedicated in the early 1990s included Office Max and Dunham's Sports Outfitters. Service Merchandise set up shop in a vacant Foland's space. The GLA of the mall had grown to approximately 862,000 square feet with a tenant list of eighty stores and services.

A 10 million dollar Entertainment Wing renovation commenced in 1997. Installed in reconfigured space in the southwest corner of the complex, it included a (25,000 square foot), Waltham, Massachusetts-based Jeepers! This family restaurant and animated indoor amusement park opened October 31, 1997. F.Y.E., which took the place of the Woolworth 5 & 10, began business in November.

Entertainment Wing redevelopment continued into the next year. The existing Eaton Place Food Court was gutted and rebuilt as the Boardwalk Cafes. Dedicated in November 1998, it included eateries such as Barney's Cafe, Burger King, Sbarro, Steak Escape and Manchu Wok.

In 1999, the Montgomery Ward store was given a major makeover. 24,400 square feet were added to its east side and its interior and exterior refurbished. When the construction dust settled, the store encompassed 219,600 square feet.

As Wards was renovating their WONDERLAND store, Service Merchandise was shuttering theirs. The catalog showroom shut down in March 1999. Nonetheless, new tenants were opening at the mall, such as Old Navy and Bath & Body Works. Unfortunately, these new tenants, and the spate of recent renovations, failed to halt the mall's inevitable decline.

By March 2001, Montgomery Ward was out of business. Two anchors were now vacant, as was a great deal of inline store space. Schostak Brothers decided that a another major makeover was in order. This time, the mall would not be refurbished or enlarged...it would be completely demolished and replaced with an open-air power center.

WONDERLAND MALL closed in early 2003, with only the exterior-entranced Dunham's Sports Outfitters, Office Max and Target stores remaining in business. Two of these closed in 2004, leaving only Target in operation. It was temporarily left standing when the remainder of the mall was knocked down in August 2006.

The past-its-prime property was replaced by the 427,700 square foot WONDERLAND VILLAGE. Its 1-level (126,700 square foot) Target was dedicated July 25, 2007. A plan to build a Wal-Mart SuperCenter had met a tidal wave of community opposition. The Bentonville-based retailer eventually prevailed and their 1-level (203,000 square foot) location opened August 8, 2007.

Inline stores and services at the new WONDERLAND VILLAGE included Casual Male XL, Gamestop, Verizon, LA Fitness, Chili's Grill & Bar, Beaner's Cafe, Potbelly Sandwich Works and Supercuts.

Sources:

Information provided by "10PoundHammer"
"Wonderland Village" article on Wikipedia
"Festive Atmosphere Helps Sales at Wonderland Regional Shopping Center, Livonia, Michigan" Louis G. Redstone / 1962 article posted onto internet by "Kreenbo" / http://www.scribd.com
http://www.nreionline.com (National Real Estate Investor)
http://americajr.com
http://www.schostak.com
www.crainsdetroit.com