Lafayette Square’s new owner points to $50M in upgrades so far

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Lafayette Square Mall has seen upgrades to much of its roof, as well as fresh coats of paint to many of its buildings. (IBJ photo/Mickey Shuey)

The owner of Lafayette Square Mall told IBJ this week he’s already spent about $50 million as part of an effort to revamp the property and the surrounding neighborhood.

Fabio de la Cruz in November announced ambitious plans for the mall at 3919 Lafayette Road and the International Marketplace corridor, including several other properties he owns along or near Lafayette Road. He said the $50 million investment is only the start of what’s expected to be at least a $200 million project through his firm Sojos Capital LLC.

The figure includes work that’s been done inside the 1.2 million-square-foot mall (soon to be known as Window to the World) as well as new roofing and HVAC systems for the property—something de la Cruz said was desperately needed. Work on the exterior of the 54-year-old building began in early November and has continued almost uninterrupted since.

It includes repainting much of the building, which now features bold and vibrant colors. Several murals are planned across its exterior.

Completed work also includes more broad-stroke planning for the property, such as a feasibility study and various architectural designs.

“We still we have a long way to go for all of it” to get done, he said. “We have more than 300 acres, so we’re spending a lot of money overall.”

About half of the mall is currently occupied with tenants. The revamp is expected to include reimagined retail spaces, entertainment areas, a boutique hotel, office space and multifamily housing. The fountain area at the center of the mall is expected to be reopened as part of the project, too.

De la Cruz said there are plans for at least four apartment structures on the back portion of the mall property, adjacent to Interstate 65. And a management company has been brought on for the boutique hotel, which will take over one of the former anchor stores. He declined to share details of what those projects could entail.

In June, Sojos announced plans to shutter the mall entirely for about three months, from Aug. 29 to Nov. 21, to allow crews to complete various upgrades including extensive electrical work and new flooring installation.

As part of that, all tenants will receive about three months of free rent, but de la Cruz told IBJ he plans to give an additional three months of free rent to those business owners, many of whom will be relocated to other storefronts within the mall as part of the improvements, with a rent structure that will look quite different than it has in recent years.

“In order to better accommodate them—we can’t afford to have what they were paying before, because it was pretty much nothing—we’re giving them smaller spaces and [shifting to] a percentage rent,” de la Cruz said, indicating the mall will ask for a portion of a store’s sales, a common practice in retail leases.

“We expect we’ll be bringing in more traffic, and they’ll be making more money,” de la Cruz said.

He said about 95% of the current tenants hope to remain part of the redeveloped Lafayette Square.

De la Cruz has not yet finalized a deal with the city of Indianapolis for funding support for his project, although he did request tax-increment financing assistance back in February.

Tax-increment financing would deploy developer-backed bonds to cover the cost of part of the project—oftentimes earmarked for infrastructure or affordable multifamily housing. Those bonds are generally repaid using tax dollars generated within the district over a certain period.

The developer said once city funding is secured, he will go to the Indiana Economic Development Corp. to ask for tax credits or grants on the project. He said while incentives aren’t necessary for him to complete parts of the redevelopment, they could help him expand the vision.

 In all, de la Cruz owns at least 47 properties across 321 acres on the west side of Indianapolis—with plans to acquire more in the coming years.

The owner said he is also continuing to not only revamp the mall, but his various projects throughout the International Marketplace neighborhood as well. Those include the Fabio Sports project, which focuses on offering athletic opportunities to neighborhood children, and continued improvements to his numerous shopping centers. There are also plans to get a proposed charter school operational by 2023.

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18 thoughts on “Lafayette Square’s new owner points to $50M in upgrades so far

  1. I hope and pray he is successful in this endeavor. It is truly needed. Now, can someone do something similar to Washington Square? It needs to be next.

  2. This is exactly what the city needs to make it a first tier city and to compete with Indy’s peer cities. Other cities have designated sides of towns for cultural development that attracts foreign investors. I love this project and I pray the city supports this investor’s efforts to fix a problem that the city hasn’t tackled in years. If an investor is willing to redevelop an under appreciated lot of land, the city should do everything within its power to support it.

    1. Correct,,,it’s happening right before your eyes! It’s just a start! Plenty more to come…I’m luckily an insider on information. You will see developments for years!!! To come. Just remember I told you!!!

    2. An insider on information, huh? I believe you are actually an overly-enthusiastic 12 year-old. Or at least that’s how you come across. As I stated before, I like your enthusiasm for Indy’s potential growth. And I hope you are right. But the data don’t back up your assertions. I have lived in Indy since grad school, 30+ years ago, and i was, like you, an advocate for growth and development. When i moved here, the Bank One building (now Salesforce tower) was being built, with many more high-rises planned. NONE of those materialized. The ONLY building of significance since then has been the JWMariott. That’s not a great sign of progress.

      But if you want people to take you seriously, Micah, review your posts before you hit send. And stop with the !!!!! points.

  3. This. Is. A. Scam. My god, is ANYONE applying any cognitive thought to any of this? $50M spent? Really? For HVAC, roof repairs, and some “vibrant” paint? Oh, and an architectural and feasible study? Shouldn’t that have been done Before spending $50M? But hey, the eyebrow place and the Christmas store now get 6 months free rent. “Athletic opportunities for the neighborhood children”. What does that even mean? A charter school opening in 2023? The 22/23 school year starts in a couple weeks, but they will be open for 2023, and a whackjob developer is exactly who should be opening charter schools. IBJ, can you get the Chalkbeat folks to weigh in on that one?

    This guy is literally spouting whatever happy thoughts pop in his head and working toward scamming public funds.

    1. These are my thoughts exactly with addition of possibly a money laundering scheme for a drug cartel. Very refreshing to have someone with Common sense post here.

    2. Here’s one where Michael G and I are in agreement. I don’t follow development all that close but I smelled a rat on this one a few months ago.

      Why would you bother putting paint on something in the early stages, when we’re talking about a complete transformation? That should be the last thing they do.

      How in the name of sweet baby Jesus are they going to encourage market-rate apartment people to live near a mall repurposing that may actually flop, let alone right next to a loud and busy interstate? And a boutique hotel? Why would anybody be lodging around here? If the offices and destination retail don’t come into fruition, there’s no incentive.

      Can anyone on the west side vouch for these “47 properties across 321 acres”?

      The one mistake is thinking the Chalkbeat folks are going to offer an honest assessment. If Sojos Capital hands them enough money under the table, they’ll writing a glowing review about the “educational transformation of Lafayette Square area”.

    3. Lauren my Chalkbeat comment was tongue in cheek. I’m well aware all those clowns do is scream “Racism!” But since IBJ prints them like they are the holy grail, I thought it would be fun to ask. You present more good questions that I would expect a business journal to ask, but instead for some reason Mickey and the IBJ are acting like this guys de facto public relations firm.

  4. Unfortunately agree with Chuck W. Lipstick on a pig. Bulldoze Lafayette Square and build a real neighborhood with affordable housing and keep and add to all the international restaurants. Lafayette Square was wonderful in its day…but those days are long gone.

  5. International and ethnic restaurants in that part of town are wonderful and completely unappreciated. That’s a real strength for that area. Emphasize that and build it up. Money spent on redevelopment of L Square as a mall is money down the toilet. It’s a shame.

  6. It doesn’t appear to be online, but Indianapolis Monthly profiled this guy in their July 2022 issue and at least asked some questions. Some things to note: Fabio de la Cruz is not his real name, and he will not reveal what it actually is. He claims he has $200 million in cash from an investor, but provides no more details.

    I encourage IBJ to follow-up on this story. Would love for the truth to be uncovered here, cuz this ain’t it.

    1. Thanks for mentioning this, Kellie. Are you sure it’s Indianapolis Monthly and not some other publication? I can’t find it when searching for the guy on the Indianapolis Monthly website. Have they already pulled it?

      Fox 59 seems to have covered this in the last few weeks as well. But only says it’s a $20M renovation. Might be a typo.

    2. Lauren – I don’t think it was ever online. Not sure why. But I have the issue in front of me right now.