by Sara Coers, lecturer in real estate and associate director of the IU Center for Real Estate Studies.
The planned redevelopment of Circle Centre Mall will bring a multimillion-dollar investment to our city, but it may be better than simply a redesign and a large investment for downtown Indianapolis. The city has an opportunity to see a dinosaur property type be modernized and ushered into a new era by a developer with the fortitude to execute and strategic planning to see the long-term play of a two-city-block redevelopment.
The Circle Centre Mall was revolutionary when it was developed, but, over the last ten years, it has begun to feel like an impenetrable fortress obstructing activity in the core of downtown. This quantity and style of retail no longer has a place in a downtown, and, like many enclosed malls, it needs to be de-malled and reintegrated into the city because our living, working, and shopping habits have changed. Even pre-COVID, the way we shopped was evolving with e-commerce, showrooming and other trends. The loss of traffic and activity from office workers in downtown put the nail in the coffin of the now-antiquated idea of a large shopping mall in a downtown setting. With the growth in downtown living, it only makes sense to re-integrate residents into this core area in a highly livable and walkable setting, where existing restaurants and services stand to benefit daily, not only when conventions and tourism events are in town. And, despite general office market conditions downtown, the core of downtown is deeply undersupplied with the kind of modern, highly-amenitized space that is in demand from companies and workers now (think rooftop basketball court that attracts the likes of Justin Bieber and other celebrities).
The plan for Circle Centre’s two blocks will bring a Mass Ave feel to the area. And if anyone knows how to bring that ethos to a redevelopment project, it is the talent force behind Bottleworks and now the Circle Centre Mall redevelopment, Hendricks Commercial Properties LLC. Hendricks has proven its ability to tolerate the risk and potential for change that accompanies a project of this size and complexity. Ten years is a long time, and the real estate landscape will continue to change and evolve, as our living, working, and shopping patterns continue to change. But we have seen Hendricks’ ability to test the waters with concepts and product types and react to the market with Bottleworks. This combination of strategy, execution, and responsiveness has the potential to take a property currently owned by several entities with good intentions, but limited real estate expertise, and put it in the hands of a long-term investor and re-developer with established success in downtown Indianapolis. Not to mention the benefit of returning numerous city-owned properties into the tax base. This news sounds like a win but, in my opinion, it may be a win-win-win.