Simon unloads ownership stake in struggling Circle Centre mall

Circle Centre. (IBJ file photo)

Simon Property Group has sold its share of Circle Centre mall, nearly three decades after playing a catalytic role in developing the shopping center that served as a focal point of downtown Indianapolis’ renaissance in the 1990s.

Indianapolis-based Simon divested its 15% ownership of the 600,000-square-foot mall at the end of 2021, selling its shares back to Circle Centre Development Co.—a limited partnership of 17 business and corporate investors—for an undisclosed price.

Adam Collins, a partner at Indianapolis firm Wallack, Somers & Haas and legal counsel to Circle Centre’s ownership group, told IBJ that having Simon relinquish its ownership stake “was in the best interest” of all involved—including Simon, which last April handed over day-to-day management of the property to JLL.

Simon officials didn’t immediately respond to IBJ’s request for comment on Friday afternoon. Founded in Indianapolis, the publicly held retail real estate developer is America’s largest mall owner. The firm’s privately held predecessor, Melvin Simon and Associates, was Circle Centre’s developer.

Debuting to loud fanfare in 1995, Circle Centre has seen an exodus of major retailers in recent years. Original anchor tenant Nordstrom departed in 2011, and Carson Pirie Scott closed its three-story anchor store in 2018.

However, the mall also has managed to woo restaurants and food-related businesses—such as Nada, Punch Bowl Social and Yard House—to take over portions of the old anchor spots at street level.

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The loss of Carson Pirie Scott in 2018 left a gaping hole over three floors of Circle Centre. (IBJ photo)

The interior concourses have lost scads of nationally known tenants in the last decade, including Gap, Gap Kids, Eddie Bauer, GameStop, FAO Schwartz, The Loft, The Limited, Abercrombie & Fitch, Johnston & Murphy, Victoria’s Secret, New York & Co. and Express.

Circle Centre Development Co. is the partnership of companies that provided $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 Friday that it’s 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.

“The construction of Circle Centre mall was the direct product of city and civic leaders working collaboratively to revitalize our downtown and, for nearly three decades, the property has served as a critical attraction and amenity for residents and visitors, alike,” said Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett in a media release on Friday.

“Now, in that same spirit of collaboration, we are embarking on a journey to reimagine the property and drive the continued evolution of the economic and civic hub that is our Mile Square,” Hogsett said.

“Circle Centre Mall has a great story to tell,” Portia Bailey-Bernard, Indy Chamber Vice President for Indianapolis Economic Development, said in written remarks. “This is no longer being looked at as just a mall but a mixed-use property, and opportunities like this highlight how relationships between our public and private sectors allow for optimal development in Indianapolis.”

The pre-development stage, including preliminary design work, is expected to be completed by the end of 2022.

Collins, in written remarks, said the ownership believes it’s time to pivot the mall to turn it into a more modernized mixed-use development.

“Since opening in 1995, Circle Centre has continuously evolved to meet the changing demands of consumers,” he said. “By envisioning the best development options for the future, both residents and visitors will benefit from a creative and vibrant environment for years to come.”

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40 thoughts on “Simon unloads ownership stake in struggling Circle Centre mall

  1. I hope a Target or Target type store is included in the mixed use of the mall. They already have a Target in downtown Chicago, LA, Seattle, Pittsburgh, Minneapolis, Portland OR etc. I’m confident downtowners would strongly support it.

    1. Every city Indy’s size and bigger has been gunning for a downtown Target since the early 2000s. Only a few primo cities end up getting one.

      Don’t want to be a negative Nancy (pun purely coincidental…and I guess I AM a negative Nancy), but Target hasn’t exactly been growing its footprint in busy urban centers these last few years.

      It shrunk its downtown Portland location to just one floor.
      It closed its location in the Mission neighborhood of San Francisco due to theft.
      Its downtown Seattle location is hanging by a thread, basically empty due to thefts every 10 minutes, probably closing soon.
      They even closed their flagship downtown location in their hometown of Minneapolis.

      I’ll at least concede that Chicago has (miraculously) retained its downtown location so far, and Pittsburgh appears likely to get one soon. But that’s the exception.

    2. Chicago’s Downtown target isn’t even in the thick of Downtown. It is basically a suburban target, in location and in feel. It’s right off of two major interstates; it’s separated from the core of Downtown Chicago by I90; it’s right across the street from a personal storage facility; and it’s on a part of Jackson Street that feels suburban.

      In Indianapolis, the area that most resembles the location of Chicago’s Downtown Target is the Meridian corridor of the Old North Side – outside the core of Downtown and a historical suburb.

    3. There is a downtown Chicago target off of state street in the loop in addition to a target near UIC/southwest downtown and target in west loop. In addition, target has smaller stores that are located in a number of cities urban cores or college campuses (state college, Cincinnati, Iowa city, Santa Barbara, etc) which carry groceries and have smaller selection of other items which could be real possibility as well. One thing that separates indy from some other cities is that indy is so sprawled but has a large core population. Only one target exists within 465 loop (ok technically two but not counting nora) which is Glendale. This is absurd and a major outlier as compared to other major cities which may not boast a “downtown” target but have at least one if not multiple targets within 2-3 miles of downtown. I do think this puts indy in that market for downtown target. Furthermore, if not target, would like to see carsons space used (at least partly) for Nordstrom rack or saks off 5th, trader joes, etc. Would like to see at least part of the circle centre core be utilized as a high end outlet mall (think fashion outlets chicago). This would be a destination once again for people outside of the downtown to visit, attractive to convention/event goers, plus be attractive to those who live downtown which has been expanding considerably in downtown tax base. Downtowns elsewhere have major high end retailers which indy does not any longer (Detroit with bonobos, Nike, under armour..milwaukee with restoration hardware outlet, anthropologie, west elm…Cincinnati with saks 5th ave as examples with a few retailers but then many cities have high end retailers including downtown Portland, Seattle, San Francisco, Salt Lake, Denver, Anchorage).

    4. Pittsburgh not a primo city. I’ve been there many times. But good for them for continuing to try to revitalize their downtown. Indy has much more potential.

  2. This is a sad ending chapter for Circle Centre Mall. I remember coming downtown for the opening back in 1995. It was beautiful! And many memories were made when I would load up the kids and drive in from the burbs for a day at the mall, each child getting a toy and having lunch in the food court. Unfortunately, the whole mall concept has run its course now, and it’s time to reimagine what this space could be. I love Nancy’s idea about a Target! We shall see how it plays out…

  3. For the overall development of the property this is a good thing as Simon has been on the sideline for a while. However, losing Simon as an owner will hurt the ability to obtain and retain retail tenants. I just hope they will be able to find a balance between retail and redevelopment as having a Mall downtown is important.

  4. Hopefully a self sufficient, new direction forward can be decided upon quickly as the property has been on life support for several years and downtown Indy needs a pop. Retail above the street is difficult in any city, even for Simon. Business offices are not trending positive right now and not be for the foreseeable future. What’s left for the above ground space? Seems like some type of residential.

  5. As someone who worked on the Circle Centre project and overall Washington Street redevelopment in the 90’s, this mall certainly has fulfilled many of it’s objectives. We envisioned breathing a new life into the downtown and saving much of the history of the buildings as possible, yet provide a focal point that helped create a vibrant new downtown for Indianapolis. The mall is no longer a fresh ingenue, but a wizened older lady, ready for her next adventure in life. As our urban lifestyles change so should adaptive reuse of buildings. I hope the CCDC proposal teams will consider not only the possibility of a Target, but other businesses and services that can support the growing population of downtown and those that come into the city daily for their jobs. Day care, an Aldi’s, a satellite library, healthcare services, senior citizen services, drop in office space, mixed income housing, pet services/doggie day care are just a few things that popped into my head.

  6. So many opportunities! Simon should have given up their share long ago if they weren’t committed to the property. Looking forward to what they will do with new partners and ideas.

  7. The mall is an embarrassment to Simon Properties in their home city. I am sure with all the influence they have in the retail business they could have helped bring in new tenants to the mall. Look at the fashion mall and other downtown malls in larger cities like Boston. Such a disappointment. With all the new housing downtown there are stores that can be successful downtown. Maybe they should turn the upper floor into a casino, what a perfect use to attract people.

    1. Simon couldn’t do much. They had 15% ownership. Public-private partnerships are tough. I suspect that if Simon had 100% ownership, they would have adapted it to meet market demands.

    2. I think this an unfair criticism of Simon. Downtown retails have consistently struggled, and issues impacting retail continue to evolve. I noted all the cities in which Target is reducing its foot print are all cities in which there are reimagination and tolerance of of all sorts of things and behaviors. It is not too hard to figure out retail development. One only need look where new development is taking place and then determine why there and not elsewhere. Finally, the growth in the downtown has been in single younger crowd….they shop on line. Malls in the most opportune of locations are struggling. I hope for the best…but hope is not much of a method or plan. I suspect mixed use and muddle, muddle, muddle along is the best we might expect…and that is probably good enuff.

    3. Agree with you whole heartedly there Robert. Selection of stores with higher end stores that can’t be found in any old suburb or smallish city with a mall. Do like the casino idea as well to be honest. Could use the food court on 3 levels with escalators as part of casino to have entrances at old carsons and current street level off Washington and Illinois streets. Would bring people to the center there and into building with numerous connected hotels via sky walks. But even though circle centre owned 15 percent, the fact is that they had their branding all over it and were 1 BLOCK from world headquarters. There should have been more urgency and TLC given to this place. Simon could have played a very positive and influential piece in transforming for the positive but truth was they wanted out and retailers caught that drift and stayed clear. I think it is very much the case that indys mile Square depends on this large space, let’s hope for the best.

  8. To draw more customers into the mall, the owners need to have a marquee attraction in additional to retail stores and restaurants. An ideal possibility would be a “satellite” Indianapolis Motor Speedway museum. The Indy 500 is the one thing that our city is universally known for, is some five miles from downtown and the convention crowds and sports fans the fill the Mile Square throughout the year. While some might venture out to the speedway, schedules may not make it possible for more to do so. Have a mini-version of the museum in the mall will meet two objectives: draw more people who may not have “shopping” in mind into the mall, and perhaps even spur more people to then make an effort to get out to the speedway to see the real deal. Not only could there be an exhibit of Indy cars and other 500 memorabilia, but a 360-degree video diorama of the race would add to the thrill of visiting.

    1. When I went to Shanghai – the most “western” city in mainland China – in 2019, the only Walmart I could find was in a suburban area and out of business.

      That said, we really need a store like Walmart or Target Downtown. It’s one of the few amenities missing for DT residents.

    2. Agreed, as I noted, a Target or a Target type store. Many other exciting ideas also mentioned above.

    3. Nothing says you’ve finally arrived as a world class city like getting a Walmart in your downtown.

  9. Is Indy’s downtown OTB still in Claypool Court? Maybe it belongs in the mall with a sports book and mini-casino?

    I like the idea of an IMS Mini-Museum; maybe several mini museums: branches of IMS. Irsay’s pop culture museum, The Children’s Museum…

  10. All the retailers at Circle Centre Mall moved a LOT of merchandise out their doors – sadly much of it was not paid for…. That’s what led Nordstrom to flee and many others following suit…..

    1. What is there about Hoosiers that they don’t implement modern security for their homes and business? Moving here from the East Coast I was shocked to find a lack of security cameras and off-duty police posted at the entrances/exits in the major department stores (in the city as well as in the burbs). In fact, unaware of the law that prohibits auto dealers from being open on Sunday, the wife and I went to a well-known dealer in Carmel on a Sunday and found unlocked cars and an unlocked showroom with no salesmen or anyone else around. We were there more than 30 minutes, undetected, and finally called 911 because we didn’t know what was going on. The lack of security cameras both inside and out was unexplainable with millions of dollars in inventory just there for the taking.

  11. Circle Center Mall has defiantly served its intended purpose over the years.Now its time for Indy to move on to what’s trending, yet unique and bold for downtown Indy.I would suggest not only the typical mix use of apartments and retail but more live entertainment is needed downtown Indy.With all the conventions and sporting events,Indy needs more to do for convention goers that’s looking to hang out in Indiana’s largest city.Fun hip and interactive entertainment for both families and adults alike.Indy should do something similar in downtown Houston.Houston turned its old post office into a destination spot called POST HOUSTON.I would also suggest an Urban Air Trampoline and Adventure Park,a premier nightclub,a really nice Aquarium or something like area 15 in Las Vegas.Something fun, full of lights, music and that’s interactive.Something that visitors would remember and a must do when visiting Indy.

  12. Part of the space could be occupied by a car loft/garage condo component.
    Could be used as an event center with a gallery of cars that are loaned to the gallery.
    I’m sure indy car and nascar drivers would utilize in a number of fashions. Maybe even keep a condo there.
    Could have a street level show room with rotating car.

  13. SO much potential in the redevelopment prospects in CCM. Keep and add to the restaurants along the full perimeter. Keep and add to entertainment component like movie theaters on 4th floor. Like the idea of high-end outlets, maybe in a new tower? 2nd and 3rd floors perfect for high-end hotel (time for a Four Seasons?) and apartment space. And creatively use other space for convention halls and meetings rooms. This could create best convention space in the country.

    1. Also like the idea of a major aquarium downtown. But do that by dramatically expanding waters building at the zoo. Expand zoo into the current parking lot with amazing new exhibits. LlY Endowment could fund this. Parking would move across the street to GM plant location, with high speed shuttles to the zoo. Come on, indy. Think big and bold!

  14. AND…now that I’m on a roll…

    Given that Indy has become an international hub for medical innovation…how about the National Museum of Medical and Pharmaceutical History? So many firsts and amazing innovations from IU Health and LLY would be more than enough to fill an incredible museum of medical science….from discovery and commercialization of insulin….first products based on recombinant DNA technology…to first effective monoclonal antibodies for covid treatment. That museum would be internationally-known and INCREDIBLE.

  15. And a state-of-the-art casino in Union Station would be a huge hit. Unfortunately the back-water state legislature would never let that happen. Rural IN hates Indianapolis, despite the fact that Indy drives the economy of the whole state. Sad.

  16. Being in the South Bend area I don’t hear or read all the details about Circle Centre. However, I did happen to hear on a local news radio station this morning that part of the downfall was due to the downtown rioting that took place. Malls, in general, are suffering but suffering due to irresponsible people creating havoc (for no real cause other than to destroy something, in my opinion) is sad.

  17. Build build build!!! The whole City is ready for 2022 and beyond!!!!! Build plenty of everything!!!! Attract people!!!!!! Towers hotels condos!!! Casinos!!! Mixed use!!!! Invite Dubai investors etc!!!! Big big big!!!! Your in the middle of America!!!!! Everybody sees you!!!!!!!!! Go Big!!!!!!!!!!

  18. I was downtown yesterday and decided to do a walk-through. It’s been at least 4 years and the changes are dramatic. 2/3’s of the storefronts are empty. The stores that are occupied are largely salons, cheap jewelry, independent clothing stores, and maybe 4 or 5 “hanging-by-a-thread” National retailers. It’s now the Lafayette Square of 20 years ago or the Eastgate Mall of 30 years ago. Truly sad, but it’s reality. Simon was smart to unload their share of this asset.

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