The world’s largest retailer was operating a financially successful, yet small, outdated store at I-96 and Middlebelt Road in Livonia, Michigan. This 97,000 square foot location, a leased property, proved to be an outdated footprint for the leading retailer whose new stores averaged more than 180,000 square feet, making the current location obsolete. This resulted in complaints from residents, making this retailer an unpopular corporate citizen within the city of Livonia.
In mid-2005, the decision was made to build a new 210,000 square foot store at the site of a vacant mall at Plymouth and Middlebelt Roads, one mile south of the existing Livonia location. The mall, built in 1959, had sat empty for two years and was the target of vandals and an eyesore to the community. The new store would serve as the main anchor of this proposed development, which would also include two other big box stores, along with specialty retail shops and restaurants. It was made clear in community meetings that this project would not happen without this retailer on board. This was met with public outcry, including the formation of a highly organized labor and local opposition group to the project. The presence of this group, and many other angry residents, was felt at community meetings hosted by the developer and public meetings at Livonia City Hall.