Marvin’s Marvelous Mechanical Museum Faces the Threat of Demolition

A proposed redevelopment plan would see the community staple demolished for a Meijer grocery store.
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Photograph courtesy of Marvin's Marvelous Mechanical Museum

Marvin’s Marvelous Mechanical Museum is a beloved Farmington Hills destination. It’s been around since the early 1980s, founded by the late pharmacist Marvin Yagoda, and is now run by his son, Jeremy.

But now its longtime location could be demolished under a proposed redevelopment project in Hunter’s Square, the plaza on 14 Mile and Orchard Lake Road where the museum is located.

At an Oct. 26 meeting, David Ortner, senior vice president of development at RPT Realty, the New York-based developer that owns Hunter Plaza, said they are negotiating with Meijer to open a grocery store in the plaza.

“Are you tearing down everything from the Marvelous Marvin’s sign north?” asked John Trafelet, vice chair of the commission, during that meeting. He was referring to the iconic clock sign that guests drive under to park by Marvin’s.

“That’s the intended plan,” replied Ortner.

“This is not what I initially heard the plans were… I don’t know what we will do or where [we] would even go!” Yagoda posted to the museum’s Facebook page, sharing a picture of the proposed development.

The plan moves forward

During a meeting on Thursday, the Farmington Hills Planning Commission unanimously approved recommending the proposal  to City Council. They also attempted to recommend the museum be offered another location in the development, but City Attorney Tom Schultz said they don’t have the authority to do that.

The Detroit News reports that the Planning Commission “considered four factors before making a recommendation to the council: the extent the plans comply with city regulations, the city’s master plan, the community benefit of the project and community feedback.”

The decision was met with displeasure from the crowd that gathered in the standing room, with some leaving the room and others shouting “shame on you,” You guys are terrible, you guys suck,” and more, according to the Detroit News.

During this meeting, Ortner confirmed an earlier statement from Meijer spokesperson Frank Guglielmi to The Detroit News that the Meijer would not affect Marvins, saying in part, “The proposed Meijer that’s been in discussion that the community is familiar with, this is a smaller grocer format. It is only on the north end of the project. It’s not in any way impeding on Marvin’s or that portion of the development.”

He also added that RPT Realty intended to work with Marvin’s on a location.

“…[W]e have a longstanding relationship with Marvin’s — they’ve been a tenant at the center for a long time. We’ve been in regular communication with them,” he said. “We’ll certainly work with them and look for opportunities to maintain their presence at the center, whether in their current space or a different space…We certainly appreciate their presence at the center.”

Yagoda was not present at Thursday’s meeting due to a trip to the IAAPA Expo, which hosts an annual trade show where Marvin’s acquires and commissions new pieces for its collection.

As of early Friday afternoon, a Change.org petition called “Save Marvin’s Marvelous Mechanical Museum!” has received 31,900 signatures and counting.

In addition to traditional pinball and arcade games, Marvin’s includes unique coin-operated animatronics (some created by Marvin himself), including “The Disgusting Spectacle,” a depiction of a man picking his nose; “The Brain,” a fortune-telling mad scientist; and a miniature of the Spanish Inquisition.

There’s also oddities like the Cardiff Giant, a replica created by P.T. Barnum. It has been featured on the History Channel and Antiques Roadshow on PBS. It’s also the inspiration behind indie band Tally Hall’s debut album Marvin’s Marvelous Mechanical Museum.

This post has been updated with new information.