Former Indianapolis Mayor Stephen Goldsmith says the lifecycle of Circle Centre Mall in downtown Indy has surpassed what city leaders, including himself, foresaw when it opened in 1995. Goldsmith was running for his second term as mayor when the retail hub opened to much fanfare. Now, 27 years later, Indianapolis-based Simon Property Group Inc. (NYSE: SPG) has sold its ownership stake in the property and the remaining ownership group is looking for redevelopment ideas.
In a discussion on the IBJ Podcast hosted by Mason King, Goldsmith said the mall had a good run, but may be it is time for a change.
“What’s surprising is it’s been so successful for so long,” said Goldsmith. “We never really envisioned a quarter of a century as its lifecycle.”
Goldsmith, who is professor of urban affairs at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, says when the project received the greenlight, Indianapolis was taking a chance on placing a mall downtown.
“At the time that we decided to go forward, there weren’t even then very many successful downtown malls,” said Goldsmith. “I’m pleased it had a good long run.”
Simon divested its ownership in the mall in December. Financial terms of the sale were not disclosed.
The remaining ownership group, Circle Centre Development Co., is a limited partnership of 17 business and corporate investors who were original investors in the mall.
As Goldsmith reflected on the history of the project, he said the goal was not just about opening a new retail space, but to kickstart downtown Indianapolis.
“We wanted to create an experience. We wanted to create a place where people could live, where they would enjoy working,” said Goldsmith to IBJ podcast host Mason King.
The former mayor says stakeholders in the community’s success believed downtown Indy would always need a “catalytic event,” whether it was a new performance arena or a new major corporate headquarters.
“Indianapolis would constantly need a new Big Bang, a new attraction because it depended on bringing people from the region and from outside the region into the city,” said Goldsmith.
Over the last 10 years, Circle Centre Mall has lost two anchor tenants, Nordstrom in 2011 and Carson Pirie Scott in 2018, as well as a handful of national brands.
The owners are now soliciting redevelopment ideas from a group of five architectural firms. The partners say the design and pre-development stage of the project is expected to be complete by the end of the year.
Goldsmith says a change does not signal failure.
“I think the fact the city, the state, Simon and the equity partners that we put together at the time decided they need to do something different with the mall represents a really nice step for the future and doesn’t necessarily represent an indictment of the past,” Goldsmith said. “It’s not going to continue to be a valuable part of that story without reimagining what it should be.”
Goldsmith says Indy is not unique in seeing a drop in mall visitors. He says the scenario is playing out across the country. His hope is that the city’s vision and of the mall owners is for the reuse of the property that would have a catalytic effect on the neighborhood and cause further investment and interest in the downtown.
To listen to the rest of the IBJ podcast with Stephen Goldsmith, click here.