For years now, IBJ in this space has been imploring the mayor, the private companies that own Circle Centre and other stakeholders to embrace the challenge of reinventing the downtown mall. From all public appearances, those calls went unheeded.
If there is a silver lining to Carson’s Jan. 31 announcement that it’s closing its Circle Centre store, leaving the 791,000-square-foot mall without an anchor, it is that city leaders are sure to finally display a sense of urgency.
With no action, the mall’s decline is certain to accelerate. Circle Centre, whose opening in 1995 helped trigger downtown’s renaissance, is at the center of the action—connected to all the major convention hotels. A hulking retail property pocked with vacancies sends a terrible message about Indianapolis’ vitality to the throngs of conventioneers who walk its corridors.
We realize there are no easy fixes. The mall opened before online shopping even existed, and the retail landscape has shifted dramatically. And department stores, once the titans of the American shopping mall, are almost universally ailing.
Mall manager Simon Property Group Inc., one of the 20 local companies that chipped in $75 million to get the $320 million mall built, has taken some positive steps in recent years—most notably by getting restaurants and bars and The Indianapolis Star to fill space left vacant when the first anchor, Nordstrom, pulled out in 2011.
But now it’s time to think on a grander scale, including redevelopment projects that could create additional office space, retail space or even a hotel. It’s way too early to declare the best path forward, but the public discussions to identify that path should already have begun.
It might seem daunting, but no more so than building Circle Centre in the first place. The project began as Mayor Bill Hudnut’s dream, one that stalled in the depths of the early 1990s recession.
He left office with holes in the ground, which his successor, Mayor Steve Goldsmith, finally was able to fill. It was a Herculean effort that wouldn’t have succeeded without the commitment of Mel and Herb Simon and the corporate community, led by Eli Lilly and Co.
This challenge requires similarly bold leadership, with Mayor Joe Hogsett leading the charge. Up to this point, he hasn’t been visible on this issue. That has to change.
Kudos to The Star, reporters
IBJ is thrilled to pile on to the praise for The Indianapolis Star and reporters Marisa Kwiatkowski, Tim Evans and Mark Alesia, whose reporting and series of gripping stories exposed lax oversight of gymnastics programs and gyms across the country that left girls subject to repeated abuse.
As a result of The Star’s efforts, one doctor is headed to prison, USA Gymnastics is overhauling its leadership, a university president and athletic director have resigned, and various investigations—including those by the NCAA and U.S. Olympic Committee—are underway.
That’s the power of journalism and why supporting local media remains essential. IBJ might compete with The Star on a daily basis, but we could not be prouder of our colleagues there. Congratulations and keep up the good work.•
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