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Reimagining the Westland Mall Site (2021)

Student-Led, Faculty-Guided Project (2021)

Authors: Maggie Huntley, Wesley Kauza, Mahra Maaita, Lajla Poljak, Kevin Wen

Summary

This practicum project was conducted during the spring semester (January-April) of 2021 and is a collaboration between the Michigan State University Urban and Regional Planning Program and the City of Westland. The purpose of this project was to outline strategies to revitalize the Westland Mall, located in Westland, Michigan as a more productive economic contributor to the city. The strategies described in this report provide a framework and vision for the future repurposing of the mall property.  

Demographic research included in this report contains a socioeconomic profile which was used to determine current characteristics of the City of Westland’s population. Socioeconomic data relevant to the future of the Westland Mall includes trends of population and housing market. The median age of the City of Westland population has been increasing over the years, rising from 37.8 to 40.2 between the years of 2010 and 2019. Housing information shows single-family housing is the largest housing type for the city but within 5 years, there has been more demand for affordable housing including multi-family residential.  

The Retail Market Place Profile included in this report was conducted to determine which retail sectors are in highest demand for the area. This profile uncovers sectors with retail leakage, or product types that require the local population to travel outside their community to purchase goods. The data suggests encouraging tenants in various retail sectors may generate increases in retail transactions and foot traffic.

Land use data for the City of Westland was provided to the Practicum Team by the City of Westland. Analysis of this data combined with observations from a site visit to the property indicates the Westland Mall is located in a commercial corridor. This commercial area is surrounded mainly by single-family residential neighborhoods, commercial, and industrial retail. The existing conditions survey highlighted poor pedestrian and bicycle access to the mall site and minimal connectivity to the surrounding properties. 

This report also includes the following: a site assessment detailing the Westland Mall and surrounding properties; a review of literature on current trends for shopping mall lifecycles; two case studies of revitalized malls and one case study of a similar mall in the redevelopment planning phase; stakeholder outreach analysis; and an examination of the Strengths, Weaknesses, Aspirations, and Results (SWAR) of the Westland Mall.

The recommendations for the potential repurposing of the Westland Mall are based primarily on the demographic, economic, and existing conditions data collected by the Practicum Team and case study analysis. Community dialogue and stakeholder outreach was also considered in crafting these recommendations. These recommendations are proposed in three phases with each phase serving as a guide for redevelopment. Recommendations are as follows:  

Phase 1: Conceptual Plan involves creating a plan which is walkable, connected, has green infrastructure, streamlined, design, affordable housing, economic development opportunities, efficient land use, establishes block structure, and creates new recreational assets. It is also recommended to create two conceptual redevelopment plans, one plan which keeps the existing anchor stores and demolishes interior sections, and the other plan will completely demolish the entire mall structure. 

Phase 2: The Design and Redevelopment Phase will incorporate master planning and policy and ordinance changes to facilitate the transformation of the mall into an urban district. This will help create an opportunity for long term and/or short-term value by selling plots of third-party developers. It is recommended to create design standards reflecting human scale, where buildings are connected to the streets and no more than five stories high; encompasses grid style block structure which promotes walkability; allow for variety in parking with limits on surface lots; and ensure the public realm is comfortable, clean, and safe. 

Phase 3: The Redevelopment Strategy Phase incorporates the redevelopment strategy where the city issues requests for proposals from developers. Each development team might have their own ideas for how to implement the master plan, but they must agree to the development standards outlined in the master plan. Developers bring varied capacity and unique experiences from other projects which are encouraged to be evaluated in public meetings and/or by the development committee which created the master plan. The process then can continue with selecting the development partners which best fits the community’s vision for the redevelopment. Proceeding this step, will be finalizing the site plan and development agreements.  

The recommendations presented in this report, coupled with the data collected, suggests there are several opportunities to revitalize the Westland Mall. The mall is in a supportive community, where it benefits from a large population of homeowners and families, and a great location with potential to be a point of attraction. Though the property has experienced an increasing number of vacancies, data shows the demand for certain types of retailers and amenities is still present in the City of Westland. Finally, much research already exists illustrating how other struggling shopping centers have repurposed and revitalized their properties; proving there is success in these types of projects. The data and recommendations presented in this report detail the steps the City of Westland can take to successfully revitalize their shopping center into a mixed-use urban district.

Author Information

Students in the capstone Planning Practicum class in their final semester in the Urban and Regional Planning Program in the School of Planning Design and Construction at Michigan State University.


Faculty member: Dr. Kotval 

Community Client: Mr. Ayoub