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Dearborn's Fairlane Town Center's future questioned as unpaid DTE bills and county taxes surface

Posted at 6:28 PM, May 20, 2024

DEARBORN, Mich. (WXYZ) — Over the weekend, a DTE notice posted on the entrances of Fairlane Town Center has got folks questioning the future of the Dearborn mall. In short, the notice reads that if the mall doesn't pay the electric and gas bill by June 3rd, the utility services to the building will be disconnected.

"What was your reaction when you saw that?" asked Faraz Javed, 7 News Detroit reporter,

"I was like half kinda like ok I'm not really surprised just cause of the state of the mall. But also, I didn't expect that either," said Sophie Young, a shop employee at Fairlane Town Center.

Sophie Young works at a piercing shop at the mall. Over the years, Sophie says she has heard about fights breaking out and even the police responding to gunshots fired inside the mall. But now, the future of her job may be in question.

"Just basically without lights we can't do anything," said Young.

This is the 20-year-old's first full-time job after completing her associate degree from OCC. With the June 3rd deadline looming, many store employees at the mall are concerned.

"I know this mall has a lot of small shops, and they don't have other locations like we do.. so I wonder how they are going to do if the mall shuts down," said Young.

The nearly 50-year-old mall is home to over 100 stores. Mall management says the property has been sold four times over the years. Its current owner, New York-based Kohan Retail Investment Group, took charge last year. But besides the unpaid utility bill, folks are also concerned about the unpaid taxes.

According to the Wayne County Treasurer's website, the property is delinquent on over 2 million dollars in city property taxes across four separate parcels comprising the mall. However, looking closer at the company's history, one can see a pattern of unpaid utility bills at malls in other states (Massachusetts, Texas, Florida, New York, Iowa, and Arizona) owned by the Group.

In Iowa, Marshalltown Mall has spent months without power after the Group failed to pay its utility bill back in November.

"It wasn't anger; it was more questions that were never ever going to get answered," Max Pietrzak, Assistant Manager of that mall's Game Haven told station KCRG.

Pietrzak says they eventually had to move out of Marshalltown Mall, which is why folks in Dearborn are worried about what might happen here if the bills aren't paid.

"What are you personally going to do?" asked Javed.

"It would suck. This is probably my best-paying job, and it would suck since it's so short and sudden; I haven't prepared for a 2nd job, and financially, this would really hurt me," said Young.

Javed paid a visit to the mall's management office for answers, and they asked to connect with the owners directly. However, emails and calls went unanswered.

Meanwhile, in an official statement to 7 News Detroit, the Director of Economic Development for the city of Dearborn, Jordan Twardy writes in part:

"Fairlane Mall and the surrounding area are a crucial commercial and cultural hub for Dearborn. We are eager to work with anyone who is serious about and committed to investing in our community, including at Fairlane.

Unfortunately, the current property owner has passed on opportunities to communicate and partner with the City of Dearborn on the future of Fairlane when invited to do so."

The city has also confirmed that if the mall's power is turned off, the fire marshall will shut down the building, deeming it unsafe to operate.