There were some skeptics when Sojos Capital LLC announced last November that it would spend at least $200 million on a multiyear revamp of the aging and ailing Lafayette Square mall and surrounding properties.
Sojos—and principal Fabio de la Cruz—are not well known outside the Lafayette Square mall area. But the company—which previously used the name Perez Realty Group LLC—has been quietly improving retail areas throughout the Lafayette Road corridor for years.
Still, de la Cruz’s audacious plan to turn the mall into a development called Window to the World drew questions about whether he really had the resources to get the job done or if his proposal was just a pie-in-the-sky vision for an area that has been depressed in recent decades.
But the work Sojos is doing at the space is already evident. A paint job on the exterior, improvements to the parking lot and upgrades to the building’s roof, skylights and some interior spaces are already underway.
In a story by The Indianapolis Star that ran this week, tenants say they’re pleased by the progress.
“God blessed us with the owners,” Christopher Mitchell, owner of Just Like Sunday in the food court, told The Indianapolis Star. “They say they’re gonna remodel it, and this is gonna be iconic to the world. … I’m here for it.”
Sojos bought Lafayette Square mall in late 2020 for $26.7 million from owners who had not invested heavily in the property. And so even small improvements can be substantial.
But de la Cruz has in mind big things.
His proposal includes turning part of the mall into multifamily rentals, renovating a former anchor store space into a boutique hotel and another into office space. He’s proposed building a park, an indoor soccer venue, sports academy and dance studio; an international concert center; and more. De la Cruz has said he expects to complete most of those projects by the end of 2023.
This week, Sojos announced it plans to close Lafayette Square for a three-month period to help with renovation efforts and bring the Window to the World transformation to fruition more quickly. The first phase includes creating “indoor streets” in the mall that re-create outdoor scenes from around the world.
The three-month closure, which will take place from Aug. 29 through Nov. 21, is expected to allow crews to complete the upgrades, as well as conduct extensive electrical work and new flooring installation, among other work.
That seems worrisome, of course, for the tenants (there are still some 60 at the mall), but Sojos said it will provide support for those who have signed letters of intent to return as part of Window to the World. They will receive six months of free rent, free installation of new LED lighting, professional and business development assistance, and partnerships with Indiana Gifts and Indiana Owned to provide online selling opportunities.
Sojos’ work and his dedication to the tenants in the mall should be turning some skeptics into believers. We’re excited to see what happens next.•
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