In 1973 Avon Township approved a plan for a 155,000-square-foot enclosed shopping mall on the site. Unlike Winchester Mall, which had just opened its first phase at the corner of Avon and Rochester roads during the previous year, the Walton and Adams development would be a “theme” mall.
The mall’s developers envisioned a “1800s village” theme, and named the proposed center MeadowBrook Village Mall. The plan for interior decor included cobblestone walkways, flickering gas streetlight effects, a cider mill, a San Francisco cable car, a showboat puppet theater and storefronts with a vintage look. The space was planned to accommodate about 53 tenants, but by design, no traditional anchor stores. The largest retailers in the mall were Frank’s Nursery and Crafts and Osmun’s Men’s Wear. About 30,000 square feet of the space was designed as a common area, in order to reinforce the “village” theme.
The first phase of MeadowBrook Village Mall opened to shoppers in April 1975. Among the tenants were K.D. Butler, Casual Corner, Sibley’s, Carnaby Shoes, Steve’s Sports Connection, The Country Peddler, Applewhite’s Cider Stop (later the Coffee Beanery), Meadowbrook Corner Drugs, and Oceania Inn. The “streets” of the mall regularly featured live entertainment, and the Village Players offered a puppet show for children on the showboat stage every month.
John and Shirlee Anderson opened the 82-seat Merrie Melodie Theater at MeadowBrook Village Mall in March 1978. The theater showed film classics, both silent and talkie, and evoked a 1920s atmosphere inside the auditorium. Before each screening, John Anderson entertained audiences with an overture played on a custom-made Rodgers organ.
Twenty-five years later, mall owners Robert B. Aikens & Associates began looking toward a new iteration of MeadowBrook Village Mall. The era of the enclosed mall was ending, and the owners planned a new development that involved an emerging concept called “de-malling.” The plan to demolish portions of the old structure and rebuild it as an outdoor lifestyle center was approved in April 2000. The work was done in phases so as not to displace those tenants who planned to stay with the new concept. Two large tenants, a Farmer Jack supermarket (later Whole Foods) on the old Frank’s Nursery site, and a Parisian department store (later Carson’s) on the north end, were announced.
Under the new name, the Village of Rochester Hills, the first phase of the re-imagined shopping district opened to customers in September 2002. Its streetscape features a gazebo, pocket parks, a fountain, a clock tower and 375,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space.