'Trend,' up-scale' and 'fashion-oriented'
describe the busy shopping centers along
Northwestern Inc! Orchard Lake roads
Special to The Jewish News
n his office, wallpapered with
blueprints and artists' render-
ings, Arthur Sills recites the
_ time-tested truism for suc-
cessful real estate ventures.
"Someone said long ago that the
three most important factors are 'Lo-
cation, location and location.' "
. Most real estate developers
would agree with that sentiment.
And when it comes to selecting a lo-
cation for shopping centers, many
developers and retailers again agree
with Sills. Sills is the managing
partner of a group of investors who
own the Orchard Mall. That's just
one of several smaller shopping cen-
ters that has transformed North-
western Highway and Orchard Lake
Road into a major shopping district
with its own contemporary brand of
Developer Morris Margulies
merchandising, marketing and eco-
Once past the Standard Club
North and the World Headquarters
(the Balloon Saloon), Northwestern
becomes a procession of plazas.
Franklin Plaza, Northwest Plaza,
Park West Plaza — driving the di-
vided highway, the centers fall by
like neoned dominoes to the north-
western limit of Southfield at Inks-
ter Road. In West Bloomfield, Or-
chard Lake Road north and south of
14 Mile is similarly etched with
horizontal lines of shops, and most
are fairly new.
Nearly all these shopping areas
are non-enclosed centers — strip
centers — and are comparatively
small, less than 100,000 square feet.
As a whole, this retail realm offers
shoppers everything from speedy
prints to furs, from glitzy bars to
The area has exploded," says
builder/developer Morris Margulies
who has a strong presence on
Northwestern. But that's not
unique in metropolitan Detroit.
There's five times as many stores in
Sterling Heights and Warren."
The numbers aren't unique. Ac-
cording to the International Council
of Shopping Centers, a New York-
based trade organization, in the last
five years 85 percent of all new
shopping centers in the country were
neighborhood centers under 100,000
square feet. The resurgence of the
strip center is due to its low cost of
entry and the fact that many parts
of the country are already saturated
with large, regional malls.
So the trend is national. What's
unique locally is the type of stores.
Although many of the centers offer
services — dry cleaning, photo proc-
essing, TV repair — the
Northwestern-Orchard Lake corridor
is predominantly fashion-oriented.
You won't find a drug store or
a grocery store in our centers," says
Bluma Siegal, marketing director for
the development team of Beznos,
Licht and Siegal who are responsible
for Applegate Square, the Boardwalk
and Sugar Tree. "Aside from com-
puter stores, our merchants spe-
cialize in designs that make us or
our homes look good."
Applegate Square, which is
widely recognized as the first suc-
cessful fashion strip in the area, is
home to an intimate apparel shop, a
furrier, an interior designer, a
maternity clothing boutique, and
equally specialized merchants.
That kind of upscale, design-
oriented tenant mix is also seen at
the other Beznos properties, at Or-
chard Mall, and at Margulies' La
Mirage, Market Street and Sunset
Strip. All the developers seek mer-
chandisers who want to flatter the
fashion conscious. And the tenant
mix, especially for the smaller strips
that have no anchor store, is crucial.
Most successful is a variety of high
fashion shops for men, women and
children, off-beat boUtiques and at
least one food operation.
"Women's shops are always the
biggest draw," explains Siegal, "but
we try to look for the unique. Like
who would ever think to do dolls and
Siegal is referring to Chocolatis-
simo which showcases savory sweet
delights along with one-of-a-kind art
dolls that wear price tags of $500 up
to $5,000. Now at the Boardwalk,
Chocolatissimo is the kind of mer-
chandiser that sounds sweet to de-
velopers, and it's the kind they're
willing to compete for.
Rents along Northwestern and
Orchard Lake average between $14
and $16 per square foot and go as
high as $17. Nationally, those fig-
ures are average to high, so the area
can't be called a shop keeper's mar-