Circle Centre owners take first steps in recasting downtown mall

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Circle Centre Mall opened in 1995 and covers two full city blocks.

The owners of Circle Centre Mall plan to begin conversations with potential developers in the near future, after receiving suggestions they solicited from design firms for recasting the struggling downtown shopping center.

Pitches from the firms included several concepts that have been floated for years, according to Adam Collins, an attorney for Indianapolis-based Wallack Somers & Haas who represents ownership group Circle Centre Development Co.

Collins said the designers’ proposals included multifamily housing, additional street-level retail and a renewed focus on entertainment uses. He declined to provide any other details.

A massive overhaul of the 2 1/2-block property—something its owners committed to earlier this year—is still in its infancy,

“Obviously, we have to identify a development partner and we have to identify what the uses are,” Collins said.

Four of the five architectural and design groups that last year were asked to offer suggestions for the mall have already done so, Collins said. He declined to say which one has lagged the other four.

The five groups were RATIO Design/Meticulous Design + Architecture, CSO, Woolpert/Arquitectonica, Dorsky + Yue International Architecture, and the Ball State University College of Architecture and Planning.

The ultimate goal, Collins said, is to create a new mixed-use district for downtown Indianapolis. The next steps include identifying a development partner for the project and beginning incentive talks with city and state officials.

“It’s in the very preliminary stages here, but I think the good news is that everyone in Indianapolis … should feel comfortable that the ownership group has taken the very necessary first steps to make sure that this process is able to move forward as smoothly as possible,” Collins said.

Conversations with potential development partners are expected to begin soon, but ownership has not yet determined a firm timeline or established whether it plans to go through a rigid request for proposals process or take an alternative route, such as engaging developers in direct negotiations.

Collins said a development partnership will be critical to “understanding the nuts and bolts and existing issues” of the current mall structure, as well as the needs for the downtown corridor. CCDC plans to engage with downtown stakeholders as part of the redevelopment process, he said.

“The call for ideas was really based upon [determining] what the potential uses were … but that doesn’t take into account specific structural analysis of the building,” he said. “Now that we have an idea, that’s where we’ll really rely on the development community, and their more granular analysis, to determine what’s possible.”

The mall, which opened in 1995, was originally built at a cost of about $319.5 million. It’s still too soon to know how much a redevelopment of the property would cost.

“Everybody wants to know the numbers, but it’s just way too early to tell—not only in terms of what the cost will be, but also what the financial gap is,” Collins said. “We’re committed to this, and we’ve kept the city and the state in the loop, and we’ll just continue to discuss it as we get more clarity.”

Meanwhile, CCDC is continuing to market space for lease inside the mall via brokers with the Chicago-based JLL. Collins said the firm is advertising space in the mall “within the lens of understanding that there’s eventually going to be a redevelopment of the asset.”

JLL has overseen the property since April 2021, after Simon Property Group opted to hand off its management to the firm. Simon also left the ownership group altogether last year, as part of a mutual agreement with the property’s other shareholders.

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15 thoughts on “Circle Centre owners take first steps in recasting downtown mall

  1. I love Circle Centre when it’s busy at lunch time, but most of us women at the office don’t feel safe going to shop there after work. There is some security but not enough. If young people are going to congregate in malls, they need affordable, fun activities in which to engage so they are not blocking and scaring shoppers.

    1. I agree. This was not the case 10 years ago and before but even though its not popular to say, our current politicians are not too good at helping in this regard. I don’t know that we want to be political here but the current crop of City leaders seem a little tone deaf when it comes to the mall. Most of my out of town friends all have had pleasant memories of the mall.
      We need to return it to that state where it was and when everybody could enjoy it.

    1. Wow. This state so doesn’t need another casino. The ones we have are struggling. A downtown Indy casino would simply bleed off customers from Anderson and Shelbyville.

  2. Why limit the make-over of this site to just one development company? That seems a bit arbitrary and short-sighted. Surely more than one firm submitted a “wow” concept worthy of implementation.

  3. With all the housing downtown, furniture and household retail is really needed. CB2 would be a great addition for toung professionals living downtown. TJMax should move into the old Carsons’ space and add a HomeGoods similar to the Castleton store. Downtown is lacking these type of retail spaces.

  4. The space still needs to be public and an urban space and gathering center. We don’t need it to housing. There are plenty of places to do that, the least of which would be the old City County Building.

    1. Housing at the CCB? I can’t think of a building less suited for residential space than the CCB.

  5. So unfortunate that Simon could not make the mall in their home city function.

    Regarding security, it is not the responsibility to provide security for a private mall. Pointing fingers at politicians because the mall ownership does not provide adequate security is misplaced blame.

    Security and safety is paramount. Congregating youth is concerning for many people and unconscious bias plays a role for all people. Certainly a busier mall in later hours would create a most comfortable atmosphere – a benefit to mall visitors, downtown Indy, and the city in general.

    In addition to security outside the mall (a city responsibility), a concerted effort to effect long term improvements related to schools/education, employment, and housing would significantly help the city. Luxury apartments (are there any other kind perhaps?) in central Indy are fine, but what about affordable housing, safe neighborhoods, good schools — key items that may attract someone to live in the city. An ever increasing population with little likelihood of employment and educational success does not bode well for Indy/Marion County.

    1. I agree with most but not all of what you said, in particular, the security responsibilities and who it belongs to. The safety of the city should fall on the hands of city officials and leaders. The Circle Center is obvious crucial to downtown and so in that regard, security is important and should be a top priority considering all the attention it gets from visiting convention goers

    2. Derek C — DMD owns the land the mall sits on, the empty anchor building that was most recently Carsons, as well as the mall’s World of Wonders parking garage. The city has a direct stake in Circle Centre ownership and could make a case for more security if they wanted to.