ADRIAN — There is no question that the Adrian Mall is in need of a little assistance.
In June 2020, the mall was condemned due to structural issues which made it unsafe to the public.
Last month, new owners from New York acquired the mall and are already eyeing ways to bring it back to life.
One of those prospective ways of revitalizing the mall was pitched last week to the Adrian City Commission during its premeeting work study session.
Developers based out of New York spoke virtually with the commission regarding the potential of turning the mall into a “new age” structure with a focus on cannabis sales and products.
The pitch to the commission included cannabis produce stands, spa and wellness centers, marijuana-based cosmetic centers, beauty zones with natural ingredients, and other cannabis-related offerings.
While cannabis and CBD products are a driving force of the proposal, there would still be space for clothing, shoes and other typical department store offerings.
The idea of the complex, according to Raphael Dangelis, one of the main developers, is to make Adrian stand out in southeastern Michigan as a “destination location” for prospective customers of all kinds.
The new age mall is something Dangelis said is being promoted across the country — starting with New York and moving as far west as Denver. Other prospective mall projects of this type are being spearheaded in Illinois and Oklahoma.
The concept behind the mall, he said, is to not only offer a variety of CBD products but also to educate the public on its health benefits. Such mall locations are being pitched to communities with a “dying” and “dated” mall.
In order to ensure there is success and profits made, Dangelis said customers should spend a minimum of six hours at the mall, and it is anticipated that more than 100,000 people should circulate throughout the mall.
“Hopefully, (customers) stay overnight, or they even stay for a couple of days,” he said.
Medical marijuana and CBD food and other items are still in their infancy in Michigan, Dangelis said. A complex of this caliber in Adrian could pay off as a long-term investment for the city, he said.
Investment in this type of proposal, he said, would show the city’s respect for the marijuana plant, its scientific nature and its lifestyle for health.
According to Dangelis, about 22 to 27% of the Adrian population uses or has purchased legal marijuana products.
“We intend to sell an experience for the consumer,” he said.
Commissioners were either taken aback by the presentation or agreed that the proposal could make Adrian a “destination location” for Michiganders and out-of-staters.
Commissioner Brad Watson was vocal on his stance of thinking the project could not fit in Adrian.
“A project of this magnitude so focused on CBD, doesn’t fit our needs,” he said. “… Do we really want this to be our presence? To be put on the map for pot? We are already on the map for pot, and it’s not favorable.”
Commissioner Mary Roberts said the many cannabis and CBD locations that have opened in Adrain have brought a sense of rejuvenation to the city’s tax and revenue base, but a project of this size might not fit for Adrian.
“I don’t want to be pot city, either,” she said. “I want the mall to have some kind of an investment, but right now, this is a no,” she said.
Commissioner Gordon Gauss called the concept too “progressive” an idea, but at the same time, he said he would listen to the pros and cons of what a CBD-based retail experience could mean for the city.
Commissioner Allen Heldt said he would need to digest the proposal not once, but twice, adding that the mall location is too large, busy and visible to be all about cannabis and marijuana.
Commissioner Kelly Castleberry said Adrian becoming a scientific study location for CBD and its health benefits would be a good investment. But right now, she said, the concept of a marijuana mall does not fit.
“I am interested in hearing more,” she said. “I don’t think we should throw this away just yet.”
Commissioner Lad Strayer appeared to be in the minority when it came to those on the commission who felt the cannabis-based shopping center deserved a chance.
“I do like the idea that somebody has looked at us with such a progressive idea,” he said. “We have to be willing to listen and not just freak out. We are making decisions that will hopefully affect the city down the road.
“By embracing the marijuana business we are bringing people into the city, where they might buy some lunch, or buy some gas. That is all part of this conversation.”
Mayor Angie Sword Heath said she, too, might not be able to “get on board” with the concept of a cannabis mall, but she is intrigued by aspects of the proposed shopping center, such as a retail greenhouse, farm-to-table foods, cannabis food trucks and restaurants.
Watson, however, said his opinion would not be swayed.
“It doesn’t fit,” he said.