Midland Mall continues to see improvements through maintenance and fresh retailers

Nearly a year ago, the Midland Mall received a brand-new owner in a young entrepreneur named Jordan Dice. Dice sees potential in the over 500,000 square foot structure that was built in 1991 on thirty-three acres of property in Midland. The mall has more than 40 retailers with six anchors, including Target, Dunham’s Sports, Barnes & Noble, Planet Fitness, Hobby Lobby, and offices for MyMichigan Health.

Jordan Dice is the principal in the firm J.R. DICE, a real estate brokerage and property management company. Dice also is the President & CEO of IPtelX, a specialty telecom company. His career started in his family’s business at 13-years-old before starting his own local internet service provider in Bay City. StarNet Wireless, a Bay City internet service provider that earned his “first million of sales within the first few years.” Dice is a Delta College graduate, and has degrees in computer science and accounting. 

With retail stores and malls dying all over the country, find out why Dice has taken on this sizable investment and what he wants to see for the mall in Midland.

Q: To kick things off, why? Why the Midland Mall?

A: Well, I had looked at all the malls through Mid-Michigan. There are about a dozen of them going down toward Lansing and Flint and the Tri-Cities. It seemed to me that Midland had the greatest potential to revive and grow. A lot of the other malls, I think were past the point of no return or had a lot of other competing strip malls literally surrounding them. The Tri-Cities, Bay City and Saginaw particularly, have more strip malls around them than mall square footage. Here we don’t have that situation. We have only one big strip mall behind us, and it’s fully occupied, so it’s not really competing with us right now and all the land is pretty well developed along Eastman. So, there’s not a lot of immediate development area for competition and I think that has kept relevance to the mall. A lot of the larger national store chains have stayed here because there is nowhere else for them to go in the immediate area. Noticing that the occupancy was higher in this mall and that there was more interest in this mall, particularly from large store chains like Hobby Lobby. It just seemed like there was something going on here that wasn’t going on in the other malls.

Ribbon cutting for the new Hobby Lobby at the Midland Mall.
Q: What are you most excited to see happen in this space and what have you done so far?

A: To bring the mall back to 100% occupancy would be an amazing goal and so far, just becoming fully anchored is huge as well. All of the other malls in Mid-Michigan have at least one giant anchor space that is fully vacant. We don’t have that anymore. All of our spaces left are fairly small spaces, and just a handful of them. So, I think the most exciting thing so far is becoming fully anchored again. We’ve brought in a jewelry store, a radio station, we have a new hippie clothing store, a hair salon – that was huge to bring a hair salon back. What’s promising is that we are headed to 100% occupancy. We will have new restaurants that will open in the food court and we’re just really down to a handful of spaces to figure out and I think we will in time.

Q: When so many malls around the country are closing their doors, what will make the Midland Mall a success?

A: I think malls will continue contracting, but that means some will become more relevant. I think this mall is positioned the best for the Tri-Cities, so I think what we will potentially see here is that maybe the other malls like Bay City and Saginaw will fade away in time and I think relevance will stay with this mall because we still have large national store chains with long term leases. The sales are still looking good. The structure of the mall is good. This is the newest mall in the area. It was built twenty years after the mall in Saginaw. They will have to deal with a lot more issues than we will have here. We will see what we are seeing in big cities. Some of the older malls will go away and the flagship mall is staying as “the mall” for that area. I think we will see the same thing here.

Ribbon cutting for The Hair Loft at the Midland Mall.
Q: You have received some criticism on social media about some of your choices when bringing back the mall. What do you want to say to the nay-sayers?
Robotic floor cleaner at the Midland Mall.
A: Well, I will say the same thing that I say on social media. Open your mind a little bit. Look at something a little differently. Not everything is so black and white. I know that with the robotic cleaner we got a fair amount of criticism with that, but you know, I think that people were overly concerned that somebody was going to lose their job or whatever and I mean in this case, this is helping us. This is allowing people to keep their job and do other or better jobs while we introduce some automation. I would just encourage people to open their minds a little more.

Q: You’ve also acquired the St. Laurent Brothers property in Bay City. Do you have plans to take on any more projects while renovating and revamping the mall?

A: Not currently, no. I think I have my hands full at the moment and I will probably just stay focused on what I’ve got right now. That’s not to say that something couldn’t come up, but I am not particularly looking to take on anything else. I think for the next couple of years I have a good project on my plate.
Weekend events draw traffic into the Midland Mall.
Q: And the question that is weighing on everyone’s minds: Chick-fil-A? How likely is that happening at the mall?

A: In all honesty, I really think it’s still a 50/50 shot at this point. If it did happen, they would be more likely to want a stand-alone building on mall property, like we could chisel out some land on the outskirts of our parking lot. They’re going to want a drive-thru. We might be able to add it to the food court and add a drive-thru in the space where the old Midland Burger Company was. So, we’ll see. Even if that doesn’t work, I still think that it would be cool to have them on mall property.

To keep up on the Midland Mall, follow them on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MidlandMall

Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.

Read more articles by Carly Lillard.

Carly Lillard moved to the Great Lakes Bay Region in 2007 from Traverse City. Since that time, she’s graduated from Northwood University and worked in fund development and communications for a variety of non-profits including Shelterhouse and Holy Cross Services. Currently, Carly is working to complete her Master’s Degree from Michigan State University in Strategic Communication. When she’s not writing, you will find her spending time with her husband, Jesse, and two children, Maycie and Elias. Carly can be reached at carlylillard@gmail.com.