Editorial: Circle Centre owners should be bold in reimagining mall

Keywords Editorials / Opinion

We weren’t sure at first what to think of the news last week that Simon Property Group sold its 15% share in Circle Centre Development Co., the firm that operates Circle Centre Mall.

After all, Indianapolis-based Simon is the nation’s retail property specialist. So it seemed like just another blow for the 27-year-old mall that Simon would no longer be involved.

But that doesn’t appear to be the case. With the announcement that Simon had exited came news that the remaining owners are seeking ideas for redevelopment of the site from five architectural groups. And an attorney representing those remaining owners indicated that the Simon sale was mutual and necessary for a revamp to move forward.

We’re over the moon about that prospect.

Circle Centre was a hugely successful downtown development for years—outlasting similar projects in many cities. But changes in retail began eating away at its viability. Over the past decade, the mall has lost its anchors along with a number of higher-end stores. And while the addition of restaurants and bars around the exterior helped keep the mall’s finances in the black, Circle Centre long ago lost its luster.

Regular readers know IBJ has been harping on that fact for several years out of concern that the mall’s deterioration could lead to a larger deterioration of downtown. As it did across the country, the pandemic helped push those concerns to the forefront.

So we are excited that Circle Centre Development is working on a rethink of the space, which encompasses two full city blocks, several historic buildings and facades, and newer structures built for the mall. We urge the firm to be bold.

It’s a complicated proposition. As you’ll read in Mickey Shuey’s story on page 1A, the city actually owns the land under the mall as well as the parking garages and the building that until 2018 housed Carsons department store. It leases those to Circle Centre Development. And some of the buildings that have been essentially incorporated into the space—including the one that houses St. Elmo Steak House—are separately owned.

And Circle Centre Development is itself unusual. It has 17 owners, all companies with some tie to Indianapolis. There were actually 20 owners when the mall opened in 1995, but some have pulled out or been consolidated into other companies. As of this writing, Circle Centre Development had declined IBJ’s request to provide a list of the current ownership. (Editor’s note: On Friday, Circle Centre Development released a list of its owners. You can see the list here.)

Regardless, we feel confident the owners are excited about the possibilities the Circle Centre space offers for downtown. We expect whatever results to include housing, some retail and office spaces, and maybe entertainment or a hotel.

But what do you think?

While the design groups chosen by Circle Centre Development are preparing their ideas, we want you to give us yours. We’ll follow up in a few weeks with a story about what you had to say, what themes emerged and what types of projects seem feasible.

Go to ibj.com/circle-centre-ideas to share your thoughts. We can’t wait to read them.•

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