World’s Largest Shopping Center with JSC Inside

Johnson Service Company’s installation in the world’s largest shopping mall

March 22, 1954 (PD: 201603)


The Northland Center as it looked shortly after opening

On March 22, 1954, the Northland Center opened in Southfield, Michigan (a suburb of Detroit) to great fanfare and national press coverage.  At the time, it was considered the world’s largest shopping center, with over ninety stores covering about two million square feet.  The Center was promoted as the model for shopping centers in the post-World War II era.

The J. L. Hudson Company built the mall at a cost of $30 million and featured one of their department stores as the Center’s anchor.  In addition to its retail outlets, the Northland Center included auditoriums, a bank, post office, infirmary, sculptures, fountains, and lavish landscaping.

The Johnson Service Company (Johnson Controls’ former name) provided the temperature control system for the entire project.  Complicating the job were the varying sizes of the stores and their occupancy levels throughout the day.

The whole mall was air-conditioned by 72 air-handling units with a 3,600-ton central refrigeration plant and a 900 horsepower central steam plant.

In April 2015, the Northland Center was permanently closed.  The city of Southfield acquired the property and intends to demolish the shopping mall this year, opening the space for residential and commercial development.