Inside Briarwood Mall: Retail Gem in Ann Arbor, MI

The Inception and Evolution of Briarwood Mall

The Birth of a Commercial Hub

Briarwood Mall, a cornerstone in the retail landscape of Ann Arbor, Michigan, opened its doors to the public on October 3, 1973.

Developed by the renowned A. Alfred Taubman, this mall marked a significant milestone in the evolution of shopping centers in the region.

Initially, the mall was anchored by prominent names like JCPenney and Sears, drawing in a diverse range of shoppers and setting the stage for a thriving retail environment.

Expanding Horizons and Changing Faces

Within a year of its opening, Briarwood Mall welcomed Hudson’s, further solidifying its status as a premier shopping destination.

The year 1980 saw the addition of Lord & Taylor, expanding the mall’s upscale retail offerings. However, the retail landscape is ever-changing, and the mall has witnessed significant transformations over the years.

Hudson’s transitioned to Marshall Field’s, and eventually, in 2006, it rebranded to Macy’s, reflecting the dynamic nature of retail trends and consumer preferences.

Shifts in Ownership and Management

The journey of Briarwood Mall is also a story of changing hands in ownership and management.

In 1992, Taubman Centers, a spin-off from A. Alfred Taubman’s shopping center interests, became a publicly traded real estate investment trust crucial to the mall’s management.

By 1998, Taubman Centers handed over full ownership to its financial partner, the GM Pension Trusts.

In a significant turn of events, Simon Property Group, a titan in the retail property sector, took over the management and co-ownership (holding a 50% stake) in 2007.

This transition marked a new chapter in the mall’s history, bringing fresh perspectives and growth and development strategies.

With its rich history and continuous evolution, Briarwood Mall remains a pivotal part of Ann Arbor’s commercial scene.

It’s not just a shopping center; it’s a place where memories are made and things to do in Ann Arbor, MI, are discovered.

From its inception to the present day, the mall has mirrored the changing trends and preferences in the retail world, adapting and growing with the times.

Architectural Design and Renovations

Unveiling the Architectural Essence

Briarwood Mall, designed with a unique architectural blueprint, primarily features a single-floor layout. This design choice offers an expansive and accessible shopping experience.

However, notable exceptions to this single-level structure are its anchor stores: Macy’s, JCPenney, and Von Maur, each boasting two floors.

The architectural design of Briarwood Mall caters to functional shopping needs and enhances the aesthetic appeal, making it a visually pleasing environment for shoppers.

Transformative Renovations of 2013

In 2013, Briarwood Mall underwent a significant renovation, marking a pivotal moment in its history.

This renovation introduced state-of-the-art flooring and modern lighting systems, significantly elevating the mall’s ambiance.

Additionally, the redesign of the mall entrances created a more welcoming and sophisticated entry point for visitors.

These enhancements were not just cosmetic but strategic moves to align the mall with contemporary retail trends and consumer expectations.

The 2023 Redevelopment Plans

As of 2023, Briarwood Mall is set to embrace another major transformation. The focus of this redevelopment is the space formerly occupied by Sears.

Plans include introducing a two-level retail building, a gourmet grocery store, and a multi-family residential building.

This redevelopment strategy reflects a shift towards a more integrated and multifunctional commercial space, catering to a broader range of consumer needs and preferences.

Briarwood Mall’s Anchor Stores: JCPenney, Macy’s, and Von Maur

JCPenney: A Founding Anchor

JCPenney has been a cornerstone of Briarwood Mall since its inception in 1973. As one of the original anchors, JCPenney has played a significant role in the mall’s retail offerings.

Over the years, JCPenney has evolved, adapting to changing market trends and consumer preferences while consistently providing a wide range of products that cater to a diverse customer base.

Macy’s: Evolving Through Brand Transitions

Macy’s, currently a key anchor at Briarwood Mall, has a unique history of brand transitions.

Originally opening as Hudson’s in 1974, it later transformed into Marshall Field’s before finally rebranding to Macy’s in 2006.

Each of these transitions reflects broader trends in the retail industry and consumer behavior, with Macy’s now standing as a symbol of modern retail in the mall.

Von Maur: A Touch of Elegance

Von Maur added a touch of elegance to Briarwood Mall when it opened its doors in September 2003. This store marked the first Von Maur location in Michigan, bringing a new level of upscale retail to the mall.

Known for its refined product selection and superior customer service, Von Maur has become a destination for shoppers seeking a premium shopping experience.

Prominent Stores and Their Stories

Spotlight on Signature Retailers

Briarwood Mall is not just about its anchor stores; it’s also home to many famous stores that have carved their niches.

Apple, a global technology giant, has been a significant draw for tech enthusiasts. Athleta, known for its women’s athletic wear, has catered to the fitness-conscious demographic.

Eddie Bauer, another prominent name, offers premium-quality outdoor apparel and gear that are appealing to adventure seekers.

These stores, each with their unique offerings, contribute to the diverse retail landscape of Briarwood Mall.

Specialty Stores at Briarwood Mall: A Diverse Shopping Experience

The presence of unique specialty stores enriches Briarwood Mall’s retail landscape, each offering a distinct shopping experience. 

Banter by Piercing Pagoda is a go-to destination for those seeking contemporary jewelry and professional piercing services.

It’s a place where style meets personal expression, offering a wide range of necklaces, bracelets, and earrings.

Body Arts is another specialty store that caters to those who appreciate body art and accessories.

This store provides an array of body jewelry and related products, appealing to individuals looking for unique and personal ways to express themselves through body art.

Lastly, The Diamond Factory offers a luxurious shopping experience for those searching for fine jewelry.

Specializing in diamonds and custom jewelry designs, this store is a haven for customers seeking high-quality, elegant pieces for special occasions or adding luxury to their everyday lives.

These specialty stores at Briarwood Mall diversify the shopping options available and cater to specific interests and preferences, enhancing the overall retail experience for visitors.

Recent Additions and Expansions

In recent years, Briarwood Mall has welcomed new stores, further enriching its retail mix. Texas de Brazil, a renowned churrascaria, opened its doors in 2023, offering a unique dining experience.

This addition not only diversifies the mall’s dining options but also attracts a different segment of customers, showcasing the mall’s adaptability and responsiveness to changing market dynamics.

Victoria's Secret at Briarwood Mall
Victoria’s Secret at Briarwood Mall” by Dwight Burdette is licensed under CC BY 3.0

Entertainment and Dining Options

An Entertainment Story

At its grand opening, Briarwood Mall boasted a movie theater known as “United Artists Briarwood,” adding a cinematic flair to the shopping experience.

However, the late 1990s saw the closure of many United Artists theaters, leading to a series of transformations for this entertainment venue.

It was subsequently renamed and operated under various banners, including “Madstone Theater of Ann Arbor,” “Village 7 Theaters,” and “Movies at Briarwood.”

In a significant change, the theater’s size was reduced to four screens, and three were relinquished to make way for a new Pottery Barn.

This adaptation reflected the evolving entertainment landscape and consumer preferences.

Eventually, in 2010, the theater era at Briarwood Mall ended, with the space being repurposed for an MC Sports store, marking a shift in the mall’s focus towards more retail-oriented offerings.

Although closed now, its presence marked the mall’s commitment to providing diverse entertainment options.

Introducing new entertainment venues like the Claw Kicker Arcade adds a modern twist, catering to young visitors and families.

Diverse Dining Experiences

The dining options at Briarwood Mall cater to a wide range of tastes and preferences.

From quick bites at Auntie Anne’s Pretzels and Panda Express to more refined dining experiences at P.F. Chang’s and California Pizza Kitchen, the mall offers an array of choices.

These dining establishments provide convenience for shoppers and attract visitors looking for quality dining experiences in Ann Arbor.

Family-Friendly and Leisure Activities

Briarwood Mall is a family-friendly destination, offering various activities that cater to all ages.

The Play Area is a favored destination for families with little ones, offering a secure and enjoyable space for children’s playtime.

For those seeking a more relaxed experience, the mall’s comfortable seating areas provide a respite from shopping, allowing visitors to unwind and rejuvenate.

These leisure options enhance the overall experience at Briarwood Mall, making it a comprehensive destination for shopping, dining, entertainment, and relaxation.

Community Impact and Future Prospects

Briarwood Mall’s Role in Ann Arbor

Briarwood Mall has been more than just a shopping center; it’s a vital part of the Ann Arbor community.

Since opening in 1973, the mall has hosted numerous local events and activities, becoming a central hub for community engagement.

These events range from holiday celebrations to charity fundraisers, reflecting the mall’s commitment to being an integral part of the city’s social fabric.

Economic Contributions and Opportunities

The economic impact of Briarwood Mall on the local area is significant. It has been a source of employment for residents, offering various job opportunities in retail, management, and customer service.

The presence of major retailers and smaller specialty stores also stimulates local business growth, contributing to the overall economic health of Ann Arbor.

The mall’s evolution, including the upcoming redevelopment projects, is expected to enhance these financial contributions further.

Looking Ahead: The Mall’s Future

The future of Briarwood Mall looks promising, with plans for redevelopment and modernization.

This evolution is expected to meet consumers’ changing needs and preferences, ensuring the mall remains a key destination in Ann Arbor’s commercial landscape.

Briarwood Mall’s Major Redevelopment: A New Era Begins

In a landmark decision on December 4, 2023, the Ann Arbor City Council unanimously approved Simon Property Group’s ambitious plan to redevelop a significant portion of Briarwood Mall.

This approval marks the beginning of a new era for the mall, signaling a shift towards a more integrated and multifaceted commercial and residential space.

The redevelopment focuses on the old Sears wing, one of the mall’s four anchor spaces.

The plan involves demolishing the vacant Sears building, which spans over 166,000 square feet, to make way for a dynamic mix of commercial and residential spaces.

The new development will feature two-story commercial spaces, including a 58,000-square-foot grocery store and a 100,000-square-foot retail space, anticipated to be a sporting goods store.

In addition to the commercial aspect, the project includes a significant residential component. A four-story building covering part of the mall’s parking lot will house 354 apartments, totaling nearly 389,000 square feet.

The apartment mix is diverse, comprising 73 studios, 173 one-bedroom units, 96 two-bedroom units, and 12 three-bedroom units.

This residential development aligns with the city’s sustainability goals, as the building will be all-electric, with no gas connections except for emergency backup power.

The project also includes a half-acre outdoor plaza, adding a communal and leisure dimension to the mall’s environment.

Parking solutions are well-considered, with 360 spaces allocated for the commercial portion and over 400 spaces for the residential area, including a four-level garage embedded in the apartment building.

Including numerous bicycle parking spaces reflects a commitment to eco-friendly transportation options.

This redevelopment is not just a transformation of physical space; it’s a reimagining of Briarwood Mall’s role in the community.

This project represents a major change in the Briarwood area, one that is incredibly positive and in line with the evolving needs of Ann Arbor.


Reflecting on Briarwood Mall’s Journey

From its inception in 1973 to its current status in 2023, Briarwood Mall has been a dynamic and evolving presence in Ann Arbor.

It has adapted to changing retail trends, economic shifts, and consumer preferences, maintaining its relevance and appeal.

The mall’s blend of shopping, dining, entertainment options, and community involvement underscores its importance as a commercial and social hub.

The Mall’s Enduring Significance

As Briarwood Mall looks forward to its next development phase, it stands as a testament to the resilience and adaptability of retail spaces.

Its ability to evolve while maintaining its core values of quality, diversity, and community engagement is a model for other malls.

Briarwood Mall is not just a shopping destination; it’s a vibrant part of Ann Arbor’s history and a key player in its future.

Comments: 2
  1. Avatar of Michelle Dunn
    Michelle Dunn

    are the apartments at Briarwood going to be for low income or upscale renters? :?:

    1. Avatar of Spencer Walsh
      Spencer Walsh (author)

      Thank you for your question regarding the Briarwood Mall apartments. The proposed development suggests a certain level of exclusivity, but as with any project, there might be changes as it progresses. For more details, you can check this article:

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