INDIANAPOLIS — For years, it was a staple of Indy's west side. But for years, it has also sat mostly empty.
Now, a new plan is looking to breathe life into the space with hopes the community will benefit from.
WRTV spoke with the local community on the plan to overhaul Lafayette Square Mall, including longtime friends Jackie Bellamy and Nancy Price, who live near the Lafayette Square Mall.
"We've been coming here since we were teenagers, so we've seen a whole lot," Price said. Bellamy added, "At least 10 years ago, it just seemed like it just went down and we wondered, can it come back?"
The two now say they don't come to the mall anymore to shop, but instead, to exercise. At one time, the friends say this property was the place to be.
"When I got here, there was a lot of traffic in this mall. It was Macy's..." Mall tenant Daniel Figueroa said.
Over the last 20 years at the location, the owner of D & L Jewelry and Repair says his loyal, core customer base carried him through as stores moved out and foot traffic slowed.
"My business is good, but it's not how it used to be in the beginning," he said.
Now, an Indianapolis-based developer is looking to change that with a $200 million mixed-use project at the Lafayette Square Mall.
Sojos Capital is behind their latest project called, "Window to the World."
Outside of transforming the mall's interior, developers are looking to build rental units, a charter school, and a sports complex, among other things. IMPD Northwest District Headquarters will also be housed on the property.
"I love the neighborhood. Love everything about it, and I think the uniqueness about it will make it an attractive place for everybody to come," explained Fabio de la Cruz, Principal of Sojos Capital.
The existing mall structure will stay, but inside, the idea is to have it resemble different cities around the world.
"I think it's for the good because management is hard-working people," Figueroa said.
So far, developers spent nearly $7 million on studies and capital improvements. The team is also using capital through an Opportunity Zone Fund.
"I'm impressed with it now. I see it coming back to life and bringing more business back to the neighborhood," longtime friends, Bellamy and Price said. "I think it could go back. It seems to me like it's starting to."
And, hopes are high, not just for tenants looking to stay, but also the community.
"If I can afford it, if they bring more customers, I'll be happy to pay more rent," Figueroa added.
It's unclear at this time just how many jobs the revitalization project could bring to the area. Developers say the first phase of improvements is set to open various times throughout 2022 with two projects opening in 2023.
Sojos Capital is looking towards both city and state funding incentives to create a public-private partnership on this project.
Here is a list from Sojos Capital of projects included in this plan currently underway:
- Fabio Sports (indoor soccer, paddleball courts, sports academy and dance studio) at 3695 Commercial Drive (renovations expected to be completed by end of 2021)
- International Concert Center at 3733 Commercial Drive (renovations expected to be completed in 2022)
- Trampoline park at 3708 Commercial Drive (renovations expected to be completed in 2022-2023)
- Ground-up construction of the new IMPD Northwest District Headquarters at 4005 Office Plaza Boulevard (expected to be completed February 2022)
- Exterior improvements at 4090 Lafayette Road (expected to be completed in 2022)
- Exterior improvements at 3717 Lafayette Road and 4343 W. 38th Street (expected to be completed in 2022)
- Exterior improvements at 3540 Commercial Drive (expected to be completed in 2022)
- New soccer fields at 5101-5111 W. 38th Street (expected to be completed in 2022)
- Ground-up construction of soccer facility at 5101-5111 W. 38th Street (completion date to be determined)
- Ground-up construction of Monarca Academy at 5101-5111 W. 38th Street (expected to be completed in 2023)
- Renovation and reopening of movie theater at 3898 Lafayette Road (expected to be completed in 2022)
More from Sojos Capital:
The first phase will include additional investments, expected to be completed between 2022-2023, including:
- Transformation of the current mall interior into year-round indoor “streets” that recreate outdoor scenes from around the world
- Ground-up construction of approximately 200 multi-family rental units
- Renovation of a former anchor store into a boutique hotel
- Renovation of a former anchor store into innovative office space
- Renovation of a former anchor store into a multi-functional event space
- Renovation and leasing of outparcel buildings, such as veterinarian/pet boarding, bicycle sales and rentals, and coffee shop
- Construction of a new public trail and public park
- Infrastructure and street improvements
WRTV spoke with two retail experts from Indiana University's Kelley School of Business about their thoughts on the project and what it means for Hoosiers.
John Talbott explained how he feels the project is a major step in the right direction.
"I'm happy for Indianapolis more than anything else," Talbott said.
He adds he has faith the Windows to the World project will come to fruition.
"I'm sure it's going to take longer than planned, but I just don't think you'd see the entities lined up in support of this if it didn't have a fairly good chance of success," Talbott said.
Despite the rise in popularity of mixed-use redevelopment, especially when it comes to mall properties, IU Kelley School of Business's Dr. Demetra Andrews, a clinical professor of Marketing, feels this project is different.
"What's being planned is a destination mall," Andrews said. "Like any other place, you would go and visit, it would be on your to-do list when you visit Indianapolis. So, that's really something you should be excited about and find confidence in," Andrews said.
As construction of the project spans overtime, Andrews hopes the community will hold onto their excitement throughout the entire project.
"Then that kind of holds on to and maintains their confidence for the long-term," Andrews added.