Finding right use for Carson’s space a tough challenge, panelist says


The owners and manager of downtown’s Circle Centre mall need to be careful as they search for an office tenant to take over the second and third floors of the former Carson’s space.

“While I think that could be a creative solution, I think there are a lot of other office opportunities that could compete with that,” said Bill Ehret, a longtime Indianapolis office broker and managing director of the local office of the Avison Young brokerage.

“If we have the right user, the right employer who comes in that’s significant—a brand or a flag like Salesforce or Infosys—then great,” Ehret said. “If it’s just a co-working type of environment, then it could be one of those things that we have to revisit five, six or seven years down the road.

“I’d like to see, as a downtown resident, something that has more draw to it and also creates a good first impression to the visitors to our city.”

The role of Circle Centre as a hospitality gateway to Indianapolis was among more than dozen topics explored during a panel discussion  Thursday morning at IBJ’s Commercial Real Estate & Construction Power Breakfast.

Ehret was joined on the panel by Jacque Haynes, a retail broker with Midland Atlantic Properties; Tony Knoble, CEO of TWG Development; Michael Weishaar, an industrial broker with Cushman & Wakefield; Doug Gebhardt, vice president of business development at F.A. Wilhelm Construction; and Emily Mack, director of the city’s Department of Metropolitan Development.

In addition to Circle Centre, panelists discussed topics including the impact of the newly launched Red Line rapid-transit bus route; local demand for apartments; reuse of former Marsh Supermarkets properties; the effect of relocating the city’s criminal justice functions to the Twin-Aire neighborhood; and the health of the industrial market in the age of e-commerce.

In August, Circle Centre’s manager announced that it had hired the real estate firm CBRE to lease the second and third floors of the vacant Carson’s space for office use.

The move has some precedent. Several years ago, The Indianapolis Star moved into space formerly occupied by Nordstrom on the south end of the mall.

The Carson’s space has been vacant since April 2018, leaving a gaping hole in the nearly 800,000-square-foot property, which opened in 1995. Nordstrom closed in 2011.

Ehret expressed some concern that the Carson’s space wouldn’t be a top option for a premier office tenant, given the availability of other large chunks of space downtown, including the former Anthem headquarters on Monument Circle.

“I know all alternatives are trying to be explored,” Ehret said. “At the end of the day, this mall is extremely critical to our core city. … It’s one of their first impressions in many cases.”

“I just hope we get it right,” he said. “All resources need to be placed into” the effort to find the right use for vacant mall space.

Also on the topic of the mall’s importance to the city’s hospitality efforts, Haynes said she would be interested in seeing the mall used in part as a welcome port for visitors to the area, to showcase the city and its offerings more effectively.

In August, IBJ reported Target was no longer eyeing the Carson’s space for a potential store. The mall now is expected to subdivide the street-level space at the southwest corner of Meridian and Washington streets for retail users.

In addition to discussion about the downtown mall, the panelists hit on several other topics:

— Gebhardt said he believes downtown Indianapolis may be the best option for the 20,000-seat soccer stadium proposed by Indy Eleven, which is also expected to include a $400 million mixed-use district. Other panelists, including Ehret, said downtown is perhaps the only viable location for the project, other than abandoned or underutilized mall properties elsewhere in the city.

Mack said the city isn’t involved in discussions about a site, but once one has been determined it would work with team owner Ersal Ozdemir to determine a path forward.

— All panelists indicated they believe the Red Line will have a positive influence on city development. While it may not be a “market-maker,” Mack said, it can enhance the areas to which it is connected.

Gebhardt said he believes rapid transit could lead to more apartment development in the short-term, but that the long-term impact would be determined by how well it connects with other transit components.

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3 thoughts on “Finding right use for Carson’s space a tough challenge, panelist says

  1. That is the big concern for sure. Sure wish a home goods store would confirm that all the additional apartments, town homes, condos, and university housing additions to our downtown would justify one of them taking the space and creating a positive anchor to this shopping destination. We seem to be able to provide incentives for housing so how about incentives to a retailer that supports the housing that is being created.

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