|Location||Auburn Hills, Michigan, U.S.|
|Address||4000 Baldwin Road|
|Opening date||November 12, 1998|
|No. of stores and services||185|
|No. of anchor tenants||9|
|Total retail floor area||1,355,000 square feet (125,900 m2)|
|No. of floors||1|
|Public transit access||Flint MTA Great Lakes Crossing|
Great Lakes Crossing Outlets, formerly Great Lakes Crossing, is an enclosed shopping mall in the city of Auburn Hills, Michigan, a northern suburb of Detroit, Michigan, United States. The site of the mall was originally to have been occupied by a different mall called Auburn Mills, which was never built due to financial issues of the original developer. Developed and owned by Taubman Centers, Great Lakes Crossing Outlets is the largest outlet mall in the state of Michigan. It features 185 stores, with anchor stores including Burlington, Bass Pro Shops, TJ Maxx, Bed Bath & Beyond, Marshalls, and Lord & Taylor Outlet; other notable attractions include a 1,000-seat food court, a 25-screen AMC Star movie theater, Legoland Discovery Center, and Sea Life Michigan Aquarium.
In 1990, Western Development Corporation (later known as Mills Corporation) proposed to build a shopping mall at what would later become the site of Great Lakes Crossing Outlets, just south of Interstate 75 between Baldwin and Joslyn roads in the city of Auburn Hills, Michigan. Herbert Miller, then the chairman and CEO of Western Development, announced in a July 1990 interview that the mall would have 230 inline stores, comprising both traditional mall tenants and outlet stores, and nine anchor stores. Proposed anchors included the outlet divisions of Sears and J. C. Penney, along with Phar-Mor, which only had one other location in Michigan at the time, and Bed Bath & Beyond and Waccamaw Pottery, which did not have any Michigan stores at the time. Although the proposed Auburn Mills had received conditional approval from state environmental officials, the property was subjected to two lawsuits filed by the city of Lake Angelus, just across Baldwin Road from the proposed mall site, over traffic and environmental changes that the mall would cause. In August 1990, Oakland County judge Edward Sosnick ruled in favor of the mall developers after determining that the mall would not have significant negative environmental impact. At this point, Western Development had announced that construction would begin within 30 days, with a projected cost of $200 million and projected completion date of late 1992. Western Development then delayed construction until early 1991 after failing to secure a loan toward construction costs. Further delaying Western Development's construction of the mall was a threat of foreclosure from the Union Bank of Switzerland, a bank which had loaned that company the money to acquire the land in 1989. Western Development first had to acquire a construction loan before it could begin paying off the mortgage, but faced difficulty in doing so due to lenders restricting themselves in the wake of the savings and loan crisis. Western Development agreed to let Union Bank of Switzerland take ownership of the mall property in July 1991, effectively canceling any construction by Western Development. Despite this, Kmart built a prototype store across Joslyn Road in 1992.
Taubman Centers made announcements in June 1996 to buy the land from Union Bank and build an outlet mall on the site. Their plans called for a smaller footprint than the originally planned center, so as to lessen the impact on the environment around the property. Taubman Centers had owned the land in the 1980s when it was still zoned residential, but sold it to Western Development in 1989 after that company expressed interest in building a mall. Retail analysts at the time considered the area to have the most potential for retail growth at the time. In response, Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) began expanding Interstate 75's interchange with Baldwin Road. As with Auburn Mills, Taubman's plans for the property were to include a large number of anchor stores, along with a mix of outlet stores and traditional mall tenants. As proposed, the mall would have over 185 tenants situated along an oval-shaped mall corridor, with 1,350,000 square feet (125,000 m2) of gross leasable area. It would also be divided into nine different "districts", each with its own décor and tenant mix. Overall, the mall occupied 39 acres (16 ha) of land, with the mall building itself spanning nearly 0.5 miles (0.80 km) from end to end. Taubman had undergone negotiations with a large number of retailers prior to seeking approval from the city of Auburn Hills, including Marshalls, T. J. Maxx, Burlington Coat Factory (now known as Burlington), Oshman's Sporting Goods, Linens 'n Things, Old Navy, and Service Merchandise; they had also consulted with Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Nordstrom to open branches of their respective outlet divisions (Last Call, Off 5th, and Nordstrom Rack). Concerns from retail analysts at the time included whether Taubman would be able to find enough tenants to fill the mall, and what impact its construction would have on other metro Detroit malls and the Prime Outlets (now Birch Run Premium Outlets) in Birch Run, then the state's largest outlet mall. Other retail analysts felt that the presence of upscale stores such as Nordstrom Rack, along with the also-proposed themed restaurants and movie theater, would distinguish the mall from its competition while also allowing for a wider variety of shoppers than most typical outlet malls of the era. By September 1997, the proposed mall had been named Great Lakes Crossing. Taubman had estimated building costs at over $100 million, and predicted that nearly 40 percent of sales would come from tourists. Tenants confirmed for the mall by May 1998 included Star Theatres, Rainforest Cafe, GameWorks, along with Off 5th, Last Call, Burlington Coat Factory, J. C. Penney Outlet, Marshalls, TJ Maxx, Oshman's, Bass Pro Shops, Bed Bath & Beyond, Finish Line, and FYE. Of these, Burlington Coat Factory would be moving from an existing store in Bloomfield Hills. Also included in the plans for the mall was a 1,000-seat food court. Three outparcels of the mall would be occupied by Chili's, On the Border Mexican Grill & Cantina, and a Borders bookstore.
Great Lakes Crossing opened on November 12, 1998. Taubman predicted that the mall would have over 17 million visitors within its first year, and that its location would be convenient for tourists traveling to northern Michigan. Many major tenants were still under development at the time of the mall's grand opening, including Bass Pro Shops, Oshman's, Star Theatres, Stir Crazy, and Wolfgang Puck Cafe. Developers noted that the presence of traditional mall stores would impact other malls located on the north side of metro Detroit, such as Oakland Mall and Summit Place Mall. Mall developers noted that the mall included several amenities suitable for families and children, including child-accessible restrooms, a children's playplace in the food court, an indoor amusement park called Jeepers!, and The Children's Place. Opening ceremonies lasted for four days; included in the ceremonies were appearances by Miss Michigan 1998 Laura Welling; performances by the University of Michigan marching band, jugglers, comedians, and magicians; souvenirs for the first 10,000 shoppers; and a prize drawing whose grand prize was a power boat offered by Bass Pro Shops. A directory published in the Detroit Free Press just before the mall's opening indicated that a large number of stores had opened their first Michigan locations at Great Lakes Crossing, including anchor stores J. C. Penney Outlet, Neiman Marcus Last Call, Bass Pro Shops, and Oshman's, along with Charlotte Russe, Ann Taylor Loft, Bebe Stores, The Icing, Rack Room Shoes, GameWorks, and restaurants Ben & Jerry's, Hot Dog on a Stick, Stir Crazy, and Alcatraz Brewing Company. At opening, 91 percent of the mall's storefronts were leased, and over 54,000 shoppers attended on opening day.
One year after the mall's opening, many individual retailers had expressed concerns that sales had dropped off, despite the mall's then-general manager noting that sales were up to expectations; specifically, mall sales were between $300 and $400 per square foot in the mall's first year of business, over the then-national average of $291. Industry experts from the International Council of Shopping Centers noted that a decrease in traffic was not unusual for a mall in its first year of business, particularly due to factors such as unusually high expectations from retailers following a grand opening, and shopper unfamiliarity with the mall's mix of tenants. Taubman representatives also noted that, other than a small number of temporary stores that were only open for the Christmas 1998 shopping season, the only stores to close within the first year were clothing store J. Riggings and shoe store The Wild Pair, both due to the bankruptcy of their parent company Edison Brothers Stores in 1999. In addition, the Wolfgang Puck Cafe was never opened due to financial difficulties, so Taubman Centers underwent negotiations to fill the space where it would have opened. Several other stores joined in 1999, including Victoria's Secret, White Barn Candle Company, Limited Too, Forever 21, and Zales Jewelers, while two other strip malls were built across Interstate 75: The Auburn Mile and Baldwin Commons.
A 2000 report filed by the Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau found that the mall was visited less by tourists than other attractions in metropolitan Detroit including Somerset Collection, but a marketing specialist theorized that this deficiency was due to an overemphasis by mall marketers on tour bus travel, combined with the mall being new enough that out-of-state tourists may not have been aware of its existence yet. By 2001, Great Lakes Crossing had begun to have a significant impact on Summit Place Mall in nearby Waterford Township, whose tenancy had decreased more than ten percent since Great Lakes Crossing's opening. J. C. Penney closed its outlet store at the mall in early 2002. A portion of the former J. C. Penney outlet became a Circuit City, which opened in November 2003. Taubman Centers assumed total ownership of the mall in 2003 after buying out a fifteen percent minority stake held by UBS Group AG, successor to Union Bank of Switzerland.
H&M opened a 22,000-square-foot (2,000 m2) store at the mall in 2007, as part of an expansion into the state which began with a store at Briarwood Mall in Ann Arbor earlier in the year. Taubman representatives noted the addition of this chain to both Great Lakes Crossing and other malls under its ownership represented a move toward targeting younger shopper demographics. In 2009, tenants that joined the mall included Michael Kors Outlet, Calvin Klein Outlet, Dakota Watch Company, and Bar Louie. This was followed in February 2010 by a 22,000-square-foot (2,000 m2) Toby Keith's I Love This Bar & Grill, the sixth in a chain of bars founded by singer Toby Keith. GameWorks closed in May 2010 as part of a corprorate restructuring.
Taubman Centers announced in late 2010 that the mall would be renamed Great Lakes Crossing Outlets, in order to reflect more clearly the presence of outlet stores in the tenant mix. This renaming coincided with several new tenants, including the first Michigan locations of Lord & Taylor Outlet, Hugo Boss Factory Store, and Talbots Outlet. Other new stores at the time included Polo Ralph Lauren Factory Store, Wilsons Leather Outlet, and aerie Outlet.Art Van Furniture also opened a 43,000 square feet (4,000 m2) store at the mall on Black Friday 2010, replacing Circuit City which had gone out of business in 2009. The rebranding was accompanied by a grand reopening ceremony which included free gift cards and tote bags for customers, along with several performances by local musicians and a ribbon-cutting. The rebranding made Great Lakes Crossing the largest outlet mall in the state of Michigan, with over 185 stores. Borders, one of the mall's outparcels, went out of business in 2011 and their location became 2nd & Charles, a division of Books-A-Million which specializes in used books and media.
In January 2015, Great Lakes Crossing Outlets introduced Sea Life Michigan Aquarium by Merlin Entertainments. It is one of only two aquariums in Southeast Michigan.Legoland Discovery Center opened at the mall in 2016. Sports Authority, which had acquired the Oshman's chain, closed its store in August 2016 after filing for chapter 11 bankruptcy. Taking its place was the first Michigan location of the Japanese entertainment franchise Round1 . Neiman Marcus closed the last of its Last Call outlet stores, including the one at Auburn Hills, on January 15, 2018 due to bankruptcy protection. Later, it was announced that Planet Fitness would replace the former Last Call. Off 5th closed at the mall in December 2018, and in July 2019, Nordstrom announced that it would relocate its Nordstrom Rack outlet store from Baldwin Commons into the former Off 5th location by early 2020. As of 2019, the mall contains over 185 stores, and is described by Taubman Centers as "the top tourist shopping destination in Michigan", with over 30 percent of annual sales coming from out-of-state tourists.