It was the shining jewel that sparked a downtown renaissance. Beautifully designed and detailed, Circle Centre mall looked at its September 1995 debut every bit the city-center show stopper.
Today, not so much.
Though far from shabby, Circle Centre is looking a little long in the tooth two years shy of its 20th birthday. It’s time for the city and mall owner Circle Centre Development Corp., which includes mall manager Simon Property Group Inc. and 19 other local companies, to embark on an overdue renovation.
There’s still plenty of sparkle in the 791,000-square-foot mall. Railings still gleam; floors are still polished. But hundreds of thousands of pounding feet a year have cracked a few tiles. Signage strips on the movie theater’s marquee are yellowed and splitting. Atrium glass overlooking Maryland Street is clouded. Paint is faded and peeling on some of the historic facades that were so carefully restored to give the mall its urban signature. Sidewalk seams are gaped and crumbling. And 18 years is the life of Methuselah for busy public rest rooms.
Indianapolis-based Simon Property Group manages eight local shopping centers. Its other seven have been renovated or newly opened since 2000, all but one of those since 2004. Circle Centre deserves its turn at a makeover.
It would be difficult to overemphasize the mall’s importance to this city. Circle Centre not only revitalized downtown, but also is still its linchpin. It is more tightly interwoven with the convention center and convention hotels than any urban mall in the country.
The city owns the land under the mall, and is responsible for maintaining its sidewalks. The city paid for more than half of the mall’s $320 million construction cost. So, it, Simon and the other owners need to partner on an update that could lure the retailers needed to repair the image hit the mall took with its 2011 loss of anchor Nordstrom.
Simon owns just 15 percent of the mall, perhaps reducing its incentive to use its muscle as the nation’s largest real estate company to orchestrate an upgrade that would solidify Circle Centre’s future for decades to come.
But Circle Centre is not just any shopping center. When then-Mayor Steve Goldsmith petitioned Eli Lilly and Co. executives to pitch in on the mall’s financing, he told them that “we weren’t actually going to do a mall. We were going to do a downtown, and that their investment in the mall would be the piece that would make everything work.”
Ultimately, the city, Lilly, Simon and the other 18 corporate investors did a downtown by doing a mall. It’s time for them to give that mall the face-lift that befits its significance in this city’s history, and in its future.•
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