Circle Centre ownership largely the same after 27 years

The ownership group behind Circle Centre Mall in downtown Indianapolis has stayed mostly intact over the past 27 years despite continuing changes in the retail landscape and growing uncertainty over the property’s future.

In all, 17 of the original 20 owners or their successors have remained part of the Circle Centre Development Corp., an attorney for the group said Friday.

Indianapolis-based Simon Property Group sold its 15% share in the corporation in December, allowing the businesses—members of the Circle Centre Partners Limited Partnership—to absorb the remainder of the company.

Adam Collins, a partner at Indianapolis law firm Wallack Somers & Haas, said Circle Centre Development Corp. and Circle Centre Partners Limited Partnership are separate entities, but their membership is generally the same.

Friday’s public disclosure of the group’s composition is the first since the mall opened in 1995, and comes about one week after Circle Centre Development acknowledged Simon Property Group’s exit.

The only other members to leave the ownership group—specifically, the limited partnership, have been Banc One Indiana Corp. and NBD Indiana Inc., which were acquired by JP Morgan Chase & Co. after the mall opened.

However, many of the other original partners have also been acquired or changed names since the group was formed. No new owners have joined the group.

Here are the owners:

— American States Insurance Co. (now Boston-based Liberty Mutual Insurance)

American United Life Insurance Co. (now Indianapolis-based OneAmerica)

Ameritech Indiana Inc. (now Dallas-based AT&T Corp.)

Anthem Inc., (successor to Associated insurance Cos. Inc.)

Cinergy Corp. (now part of Charlotte, N.C.-based Duke Energy; joined as PSI Energy Inc.)

DeMars Investment Corp. (successor to Geupel DeMars Inc.)

Indiana University Health Inc., (successor to Methodist Hospital of Indiana Inc.)

IPALCO Enterprises Inc., (now Arlington, Virginia utility company AES Corp.)

Key Capital Corp. (Cleveland-based successor to Society National Bank Indiana)

Lacy Diversified Industries Ltd.,

MPP Development Co. (Marsh Supermarkets retirement fund)

— Pacific & Southern Co. Inc. (subsidiary of McLean, Virginia-based media company Gannett Co. Inc., successor to Indianapolis Newspapers Inc.)

PNC Investment Corp. (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-based successor to National City Bank)

The Lilly Retirement Plan Master Trust (Eli Lilly & Co. pension fund)

United Farm Bureau Life Insurance Co. (successor to Farm Bureau Insurance)

The Sherwin-Williams Master Trust, (pension fund for Pittsburgh-based paint manufacturer Sherwin-Williams, successor to Lilly Industries Inc.)

Washington National Insurance Co. (subsidiary of Carmel-based CNO Financial, successor to Bankers National Life Insurance Co.)

The Lilly Retirement Plan Master Trust has been the majority shareholder in the ownership group since it was formed, Collins said. Specific stakes in the company and associated partnerships were not disclosed.

Circle Centre Development was formed in the early 1990s when then-Mayor Steve Goldsmith and Simon predecessor Melvin Simon and Associates rallied for private businesses to contribute cash—ultimately about $75 million—toward the mall’s $320 million original development cost.

The mall was developed by combining a number of existing buildings and historic facades with new structures. Circle Centre Development owns many of the buildings, including all the sections built specifically for the mall.

But the land is owned by the city and leased to the ownership group through an agreement with the Department of Metropolitan Development. In addition, the city owns the northeastern-most building in the complex, where former anchor Carson Pirie Scott & Co. was located before it closed in 2018, and has leased it to Circle Centre Development through a separate agreement. The building originally housed the L.S Ayres flagship store that operated from 1905 to 1992.

The ownership group announced a week ago that it is soliciting ideas for ways to redevelop the property. CCDC is accepting proposals from five groups about what could be done with the property: Ratio Design/Meticulous Design + Architecture, CSO, Woolpert/Arquitectonica, Dorsky + Yue International Architecture, and the Ball State University College of Architecture and Planning.

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7 thoughts on “Circle Centre ownership largely the same after 27 years

  1. As I recall, there were supposed to be 3 major anchor stores as a condition precedent to even going forward with the mall. The 3rd major anchor was to be located just off the Circle and would be a gateway into the mall. Of course, the 3rd major anchor never materialized. Simon got around this by getting everyone to agree to count a group of stores as a major anchor. Oh yes, Simon also lowered their percentage of ownership prior to the mall opening and has continued to lower its ownership stake ver since.

    I owned two franchise businesses that operated out of the Castleton and Greenwood Park malls. I recall asking the franchisor at the time the Circle Centre Mall was under consideration if I should consider opening a store there. Their answer was “no.” Their experience had been that urban malls do not work. Perhaps the IBJ should put what has happened with the Circle Centre mall into perspective and look at the history of urban malls.

    1. You are correct that Circle Centre is just one more example of how the traditional shopping mall model is problematic in an urban setting. There are examples in many cities. Indeed, you could argue that it’s not even the first example in downtown Indianapolis, if you count Union Station. Of course, that traditional mall model is increasingly problematic in the suburbs, too. Castleton is certainly not quite what it used to be, nor Lafayette Square or Washington Square.

      But, it’s worth considering whether the success of Circle Centre should be judged only by whether it has thrived in the long-term as a traditional shopping mall. Take a look at the list of original owner-partners. Other than Simon, none of those corporations had any real strategic desire to be in the mall business. They bought in as good corporate citizens, as Indianapolis companies traditionally have in other situations, because they desired to have a healthy downtown. And despite the annoying drumbeat of anti-mayor commenters on the IBJ website, if you take a look at downtown Indianapolis, it is far healthier and more vibrant than it was before Circle Centre opened, with lots of hustle and bustle, retail and restaurant activity, and an ever-increasing amount of high-end housing. That’s certainly not all because of Circle Centre, but the mall was a significant part of the story of a downtown rebirth that would make many other cities envious.

      Now, the remaining owners recognize that the Circle Centre model needs to evolve (just as it needs to evolve for many of our suburban malls). Good for them, and best of luck to them!

  2. “The 3rd major anchor was to be located just off the Circle and would be a gateway into the mall. Of course, the 3rd major anchor never materialized.”

    The mall did not happen north of Washington Street because the Goodman family retained ownership of its properties on the first block of West Washington.

    Circle Centre was successful and very important to downtown from its opening in September 1995 to, say, a few years after Nordstrom left on July 31, 2011, so twenty years.

    I was encouraged that nine of the 17 owners are, I think, Indiana based and that The Lilly Retirement Plan Master Trust is the majority shareholder.

  3. What about a LARGE INDOOR PLAYPLACE? A cross between Monkey Joes, Chuckie Cheese, and Great Times. This would include indoor black light mini golf, go-carts, and an indoor playground.
    Most indoor play places them have closed since this stupid pandemic hit. Or has the public bought into all the fear the media and naysayers about the 6′ away nonsense? Would it help parents feel better if the kids wore goggles, mask, and nurses gloves?

  4. Keep and expand restaurants all around periphery of mall. Convert 1-2 floors to high-end apartments; 1-2 floors high-end boutique hotel. Keep and expand entertainment options on 4th floor. And a Target or similar in Carson’s spot. Lots of potential in CC Mall redevelopment.

    1. Don’t forget the unused upper floors of the old Ayres building. Definitely should be residential or hotel.

    2. The Hyatt Regency Hotel at the Arcade in Cleveland is a great smaller scale example of what you were describing Michael. It’s not a bad idea and has shown to be possible!

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