Troy developer buys Oakland Mall, lays out new vision

A farmer’s market, hipster art and an emphasis on value to meet the needs of Metro Detroit families are some of the elements of the vision outlined Monday by the new owner of the Oakland Mall.

Troy-based MKiezi Investments LLC, founded in 2013 by developer Mario Kiezi, 31, has acquired the 1.5-million-square-foot Troy shopping center that opened in 1968 from California’s CenterCal Properties LLC for an undisclosed price. Kiezi imagines the acquisition as a “mall of the people” — a “non-elite” space at the heart of Metro Detroit serving the next generation of families to separate it from nearby Somerset Collection.

“This is one of the sleepiest sites in Metro Detroit that we are going to wake up,” Kiezi said. “We want it to be a community where you can shop, have fun and eat. We live in a world of experience where people want to see things in real life and experience them.”

Unlike some other Metro Detroit malls, Oakland Mall has fared well through the COVID-19 pandemic: It has a healthy 90% occupancy rate with anchors including Macy’s, JCPenney, Dick’s Sporting Goods and At Home. A Hobby Lobby is opening later this year in the former Sears store that Kiezi acquired last year for $15 million and has redeveloped. Longhorn Steakhouse will replace the former Logan’s Roadhouse at the southeast corner of the property.

A rendering from GH+A Design-Detroit reimagines an Oakland Mall entrance.

For the mall, Kiezi’s team has retained GH+A Design Studios in Detroit to reimagine it as a destination. He did not share a redevelopment budget, but ideas under consideration are around placemaking, including using outdoor spaces.

“Brick and click” concepts would support physical and online shopping needs. Restaurants and chefs could rent out 20 to 30 takeout and delivery “ghost kitchens” sized between 225 and 400 square feet for 10% of the cost of a typical lease. Kiezi welcomes the current big brand names, but he emphasizes the mall will be a place for local and national “makers” and small businesses. A slime experience and other entertainment could make it a cool place for children and families, too, Kiezi said.

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