Will Circle Centre Mall shine again?

September 8, 1995, was an important day in the history of downtown Indianapolis. It was the day that saw the opening of Indy’s most vibrant and fashionable mall. Almost overnight Circle Centre mall became a destination for locals and for those in the surrounding smaller markets. Three months before the mall officially opened its doors, The Indianapolis Star reported:

Simon Property Group releases a list of 59 stores to occupy retail space. 92% of the mall is leased, with about 42% of the stores new to the Indianapolis Market.

It’s safe to say that the opening of Circle Centre mall marked the  beginning of some notable growth and development in downtown Indianapolis. But in view of some very recent, Super Bowl related updates and improvements it feels like the proverbial ball has been dropped on the Mall.

While there’s no question that Simon Property Group knows how to create successful shopping space, I can’t help but wonder what the deal is with Circle Center. In US and Asia combined the group owns and manages some 244 million square feet of property. And does it well, so what’s the story with Indy’s downtown? I wish someone would break it down for me! As a fashion-conscious guy who lives and works in this city, I have a vested interest in seeing local fashion retail flourish, and while small, independent boutiques continue popping up all over town, to see a staple chain like Hollister depart the Circle Center, after the blow delivered by Nordstrom’s closure is downright depressing. It’s frustrating to see our city’s most dynamic mall slowly, but surely devolve into a fancy walkway between hotels and the convention center or worse yet, be a hangout for teens that have nothing better to do after school. To put it another way, I feel the need to put on my aviators, my whites and get on my knees on the corner of Maryland and Meridian and start singing, “You’ve lost that loving feeling”. Thank God H&M is still hanging in there.

I did some research on the state of clothing retail at the local malls and here’s what I’ve found:

Castleton Square mall has the most choices for clothing retail, Circle Centre center ranks second in percentage of tenants. Those good old days of Circle Centre being the king of the clothing castle are definitely over.

  1. Keystone                    35% of tenants offer clothing options for men and women
  2. Circle Centre            27% of tenants offer clothing options for men and women
  3. Castleton                   26% of tenants offer clothing options for men and women
  4. Greenwood               22% of tenants offer clothing options for men and women

Not 100% sure what factors drive stores to lease in one location over another, but it’s obvious that downtown is losing the fight for attractive retail tenants. How can we change this? Pattern is working hard to create a legitimate and strong fashion scene in Indianapolis and while the cultural offering and happening continue to expand, based on what’s happening at Circle Centre, fashion retail is shrinking!! What’s happening here?

And here’s what I’d like to know:

  1. What’s being done to encourage new stores for the Indianapolis market, like when the mall first opened?
  2. What kind of marketing and PR efforts are being made to encourage shoppers to come back to Circle Centre mall as a destination for their shopping needs? What type of events are being planned to engage and create excitement for the mall?
  3. Will the mall ever encourage street entrance stores to open on the lower levels of the mall again? Like back in the day The Limited and Express (pretty sure at the time it was still called Structure) both had street entrances to their stores.

The point is that a great destination like Circle Centre deserves better. Indianapolis has some great momentum post Super Bowl. Convention planners love us and our city has a great reputation that brings in thousands of visitors every month. With the amount of foot traffic around Circle Centre I would think that it would be Simon’s crown jewel. With Simon’s headquarters located just a block away, Circle Centre should be a showpiece for the huge property group, but for some reason that is not the case.

But maybe there’s hope. With the city officially backing Fashion Night Out on September 6, perhaps the folks at Simon will think of a way to get things fired back up at the Mall. I sure hope so!

Now the real questions: Does anyone have a flight suit I can borrow?

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