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. The shopping center site was adjacent to the city limits of Pontiac, but not within said city.

Developed by a joint venture of Aaron and William Gershenson, James H. Wineman and Eugene J. Arnsfeld  PONTIAC MALL was designed by Detroit's A. Arnold Agree, Charles N. Agree and Eugene W. Mitton. The original shopping hub encompassed approximately 389,500 leasable square feet.

Based on a single retail level, PONTIAC MALL was anchored by a 2-level (145,000 square foot) Montgomery Ward, which opened for business on February 1, 1962. A 1-level (80,000 square foot), Hudson's Budget Store held its grand opening, along with the mall, on May 10th.

Charter tenants included Zuieback's Suburban ladies' wear, Baker's Shoes, Grinnell's Music, Singer Sewing Center, Bond Clothes, Cunningham Drug, a (34,000 square foot) S.S. Kresge and (18,000 square foot) Kroger supermarket. A freestanding structure north of Montgomery Ward housed a (21,000 square foot) Savon supermarket. This was rebranded as a Farmer Jack food store in 1967.

Anchor stores at PONTIAC MALL were enlarged in the mid-1960s. Ward's built an eastern addition, with the expanded store encompassing 200,600 square feet. The Hudson's Budget Store grew in size with a western addition and two upper levels. The mercantile re-opened, as a 3-level (300,000 square foot) Hudson's, on July 25, 1967. The mall now housed approximately 669,100 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, constructed on the north end of the mall site, was completed in August 1972. The General Cinema Corporation Pontiac Mall Cinema I & II was built on a pad southwest of Sears. This venue showed its first features on March 14, 1973. It was eventually reconfigured as a tri-plex and was shuttered in 1993.

Meanwhile, a 1 million dollar face lift got underway in April 1983. New store fronts, flooring and ceilings were installed. Stores such as The Limited, Musicland, Casual Corner, The Gap and B. Dalton Bookseller were added to the mall directory. The complex, renamed as SUMMIT PLACE, was rededicated on October 31, 1983.

An expansion was underway by late 1987. A meandering, fully-enclosed shopping concourse 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 store began business on August 3, 1988.

The new concourse continued northward to the 12-bay The 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 1,292,200 leasable square feet and housed 148 stores and services. Apparently, Hudson's was downsized. A Brentwood, Tennessee-based Service Merchandise now occupied the west side of the building.

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

The sprawling shopping district would enjoy just 10 years of success. GREAT LAKES CROSSING {4 miles northeast, in Auburn Hills} opened in 1998. Soon, it was draining commerce from the older shopping venue. 2001 brought the shuttering of Montgomery Ward and a rebranding of Hudson's as a Chicago-based Marshall Field's.

SUMMIT PLACE was sold to the Los Angeles-based Namco Capital Group in 2002. They soon embarked on a reinvention of the struggling retail 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 Center Court play area was dedicated in December 2002. However, the waterpark concept was abandoned. The SUMMIT PLACE Marshall Field's was "Macy-ated" on September 9, 2006. Vacancies began to pile 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 mall loan. Ownership of the virtually vacant facility 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. This plan was abandoned in early 2018.

Meanwhile, Waterford Township had issued an ultimatum to SD Capital in October 2017; either sell the moribund mall, renovate it, or tear it down. SD Capital appealed the order in January 2018. Southfield, Michigan-based Ari-El Enterprises bought the abandoned shopping center in September 2018.

Demolition commenced in May 2019, with the entire mall being bulldozed. The land that the "obsolete eyesore" shopping complex stood on may be redeveloped as the Oakland County Business Center, a 63 million dollar project.


The Detroit Free Press
The Oakland Press (Oakland, Michigan)
http://www.labelscar.com / "Prange Way"
http://www.departmentstoremuseum.org / Department Store Museum
"Summit Place Mall" article on Wikipedia