GREG MORRIS: Circle Centre mall in desperate need

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Let’s get to it. The condition of Circle Centre mall in the center of downtown is embarrassing. It looks and feels junky inside and isn’t reflective of the Indianapolis I know and love.

Don’t count on the escalators working. I’m not sure I’ve seen a day when all of them are working, and some days you feel lucky if half are running. Really? Is it too much to ask to fix the escalators?

My wife and I were downtown this past weekend for the debut of the “Shining a Light” patriotic display on Monument Circle. We walked through the mall to go to dinner afterward. Not only were two of the escalators not working, the elevator wasn’t working properly, either.

Thank God for some great restaurants on the perimeter of the mall property or you’d have no reason to get near the place. We aren’t even trying to put our best foot forward as a city. And how can a city the size of Indianapolis not have one department store downtown? How is that possible?

I’m not talking about just the physical condition of the mall and the lack of retail stores, but also your experiences walking in and around the mall. Here’s a quick story about a typical experience venturing out to lunch.

On a hot, steamy day in August, I walked out of my office at One Monument Circle and headed to the mall, which is only a block away. In that block, I was approached by two aggressive panhandlers asking me for money. As I got to the southwest corner of Washington and Meridian streets, I encountered a group of more than 10 people who were talking trash to one another. They also asked for money.

Arriving at the old Carson’s entrance, I was stopped dead in my tracks by the overwhelming smell of urine. Honestly, it gagged me. When I got inside, the walls of the temporary walkway through the old Carson’s space were filthy and full of half-fixed holes presumably made by people who put their fists and feet through them. I’m told this happens on a regular basis.

Here’s an idea–what about stationing a guard or two to not only protect the property but also make people feel safer walking through that area?

When I got into the mall, I was greeted by a closed Granite City restaurant and two escalators that weren’t operating. Highly agitated, I shared my experience with a server I know at one of the remaining restaurants. She told me she complains on an almost daily basis to restaurant and mall management about problems scarier and more disgusting than what I experienced. Here’s another suggestion—why not provide a police presence on every corner in the center of downtown and give them the authority to enforce laws instead of holding them back? Let’s take back our streets.

We’ve heard about converting two floors of the old Carson’s into office space. That’s better than the space sitting empty. I applaud the effort. But what’s going to be done about the rest of the mall property? Unless there’s a plan, who will want to work in the new office space?

Look—this great city has a long history of rallying the public and private sectors to work together to find solutions to big problems like this one. We say that’s our secret sauce. So, let’s get busy and work together to create a viable long-term vision for this incredibly important downtown asset.•


Morris is publisher of IBJ. His column appears every other week. To comment on this column, send email to

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5 thoughts on “GREG MORRIS: Circle Centre mall in desperate need

  1. Absolutely agree and as you point out, there is no excuse given the consortium involved. The city and private business owns find many millions every year to support downtown sports arenas, etc, and need to realize that our continued convention traffic depends on some form of vibrant retail to keep the interest of visitors.

  2. I live downtown and we completely stay away from this area. Until the city, Simon and all parties involved finally get off their backsides I fear it’s only going to get worse. I hope it doesn’t take a high profile and violent crime to occur for somebody to say enough is enough.

  3. One of the biggest problems the mall had, from the beginning, was that it is completely inward facing. Why aren’t there store fronts or at least more window displays for stores to decorate. There is no enticement to go into the mall and shop, there is no reason to linger in front, no signs, no store directory, there is no outside interest or curiosity about what’s inside. Of course, this is assuming something interesting is inside for people to be curious about – it may be too late to try and entice anyone in.

  4. Apparently the mall is asking for too high of a price on their space or else the apple stores and the target stores would be interested in the space that attaches to 6,100 hotel rooms. Greed will get you an empty mall. Let’s get smart and think long term. The Mall should be offering big time deals to these types of stores knowing that landing this type of store will solve there other smaller space issues. Once you land the big stores with great deals, the demand for the other space will increase and that’s when you can make your money. No big stores equals no people traffic and no demand for the other space. Lets get smart Indy!!!

    1. You don’t think Simon is offering “big time deals” to potential anchor tenants? Simon built their empire years ago with this exact template. They know the formula. Your assumption that rent is “too high” couldn’t be further from the truth. Circle Centre offers better leasing rates than any other Simon or Washington Prime shopping center in the Indianapolis area. People are very unrealistic about the types of businesses that Circle Centre can lure to the mall. National tenants aren’t coming. Management knows this but unfortunately the general public has unreal expectations.

      I’m 100% certain Simon is embarrassed by the current state of Circle Centre. With that being said, their specialty leasing staff in the Indianapolis area is fantastic but they are fighting an uphill battle. Theft, homelessness and unsupervised young people have taken over the hallways of Circle Centre and any retailer worth a darn knows to stay far away from Circle Centre. Holiday and 4th quarter sales are atrocious for any remaining stores and will continue to decline year over year. Tenants rely almost solely on the traffic flow driven by conventions and events. As national tenants continue to drop, local retailers that Fashion Mall, Castleton, Greenwood, Hamilton Town Center decline to let in their shopping centers will continue to find their way to Circle Centre. The occupancy rate may suffer but will remain relatively stable due to a strong restaurant scene.

      Bottom line: Retailers on the level of Apple and Target aren’t making their way to Circle Centre.