Rejuvenating the Westwood Mall good for entire area

The retail world in Marquette County continues to evolve, and a major evolution could be headed to Marquette Township.

The Kohan Retail Investment Group, based in Great Neck, New York, has purchased a majority of the 30-acre property at the beleaguered Westwood Mall, located along U.S. 41 in Marquette Township. Another developer, based in Philadelphia, bought property composed of Kohl’s, Applebee’s, Verizon and H&R Block.

The Westwood Mall is not alone in its struggles. Many malls are struggling, with the public’s shopping habits changing to online buying and other ways of purchasing goods.

Kohan’s owner, Mike Kohan, told The Mining Journal on Tuesday the Westwood Mall project is unique because new companies already are interested in becoming mall occupants.

His company recently purchased two malls in the Lower Peninsula cities of Midland and Harper Woods that, according to a Jan. 27 Detroit Free Press article, were in financial distress.

The same could be said for the Westwood Mall, which in recent years has lost Radio Shack, J.C. Penney, Younkers and MC Sports, among other stores.

Marquette Township government apparently is willing to work with Kohan, with Planning and Zoning Administrator Jason McCarthy noting there is a “myriad of options.”

Kohan stressed his company doesn’t plan to bulldoze the mall, and instead will work with mall management to organize events to attract people.

We agree the mall has potential. Future tenants don’t have to be traditional retail stores, but maybe offices, or places organizations can use to hold events.

For instance, the Superiorland Bridge Club meets at the mall. When the Youth Services section of the Peter White Public Library was undergoing renovation, it was moved temporarily to the mall. Kids still had fun.

The old mall model might be a thing of the past, but the infrastructure remains. How to use that infrastructure to best serve the businesses as well as the community remains to be seen.

We’re glad to see interest being taken in the mall. A rejuvenated Westwood Mall has all sorts of potential, and even if it never returns to what it was when it had stores such as Younkers and J.C. Penney, it still could be a destination for the community as well as tourists passing through town.

That sure beats a large abandoned building.