Wednesday, July 25th, 2007

Downtown Malls In Columbus and Indianapolis

Continuing my series comparing the twin cities of Columbus and Indianapolis, it is worth noting that both cities have downtown malls. Columbus has the City Center mall, Indianapolis the Circle Centre mall. The Columbus mall opened first to great fanfare, and was home to destination stores like Marshall Fields. Circle Centre likewise opened to great hoopla, featuring the region’s only Nordstrom.

Since opening, the two malls have diverged significantly. Circle Centre in Indianapolis never lived up to its hype. It was originally intended to be a major regional destination with unique, upscale stores. There was a prime block of land adjacent to the mall with frontage on Monument Circle that was originally intended to host a third anchor. Over time, the profile of the mall changed. Simon company, which owned it, acquired management rights to all over area malls, including the upscale Fashion Mall on the north side. Rather than going to bat for a downtown mall, Simon had the Fashion Mall as its outlet for regional destination stores. And let’s face it, that’s where most of them wanted to go. The long rumored downtown Saks never materialized, but the minute space opened in the Fashion Mall, Saks snapped it up. No other third anchor ever materialized and the circle block, once touted as the best of the bunch, was eventually filled with an office building and hotel. The fourth floor, which had been originally conceived as an entertainment venue with bars and a movie theater, struggled from the get-go and is now all but vacant. While some destination stores remained and sales were solid if unspectacular, the mall was no longer a regional focal point, but primarily appealed to visitors. On the plus side, the mall became one of the premier dining districts in the city, pulling in throngs of visitors and locals pretty much every night of the week. While few other retail outlets sprouted outside the mall, its success as a dining destination created a major entertainment district throughout the south of downtown. So while Cirlce Center may not have lived up to the original vision, it certainly held its own and has become the real center and anchor of the downtown.

I’m far less familiar with City Center in Columbus, but its trajectory was far different. The mall has essentially tanked and become a white elephant downtown. See this article in today’s Columbus Dispatch for a sample. I can’t explain why this happened exactly. Among other things, City Center is on the opposite side of downtown from the convention center. Contrast that with the Indianapolis situation, where the mall is connected via skywalk to the convention center and many area hotels, as well as being very convenient to the RCA Dome and Conseco Fieldhouse arena. This probably hurt City Center. What’s more, Marshall Fields was never the anchor that Nordstrom was for Indy. And the mall never became the focal point of a downtown dining and entertainment district. Whether City Center can be saved as an actual mall is seriously in doubt. Interestingly, Simon owns this one as well, though I’m not certain if they inherited it via one of their many acquisitions.

So while Circle Centre may have its challenges, and in fact may yet suffer the same fate as City Center if it isn’t carefully tended, so far the residents of Indy can feel pretty good about how they have fared. In fact, few if any regional peer cities have a downtown mall as successful as Circle Centre.

Topics: Economic Development
Cities: Columbus (Ohio), Indianapolis

4 Responses to “Downtown Malls In Columbus and Indianapolis”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Simon just recently inherited City Center in Columbus this year when it bought Mills Corporation.

  2. Walker Evans says:

    Today marks the beginning of the end for the City Center in Columbus. The city is suing to take over the mall, and (keeping my fingers crossed) we could see something redeveloped there in the next few years.


  3. The Urbanophile says:

    Thanks for the update. I saw the article on the lawsuit. We’ll see what happens.

    In retrospect, the mall should probably have been located in the Arena District area. If it were nearer to the arena and the convention center, likely it would have received more traffic. It’s too bad that it is probably now going to get demolished.

  4. Barbara's Journey Toward Justice says:

    Thought you may be interested in this event at YES Cinema.
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    Special reception ($20 per person) begins at 6:30, followed by the public presentation, book discussion and Q&A session ($10 per person) at 7:30.
    Dennis’ story is that he was falsely incarcerated for years on death row for a crime he did not commit. The story continues after he was exonerated and now his story is being made into a movie by George Clooney’s production company.
    Meet the man himself, Dennis Fritz, and learn more about his fascinating story! Seats are limited!!! (Copies of these books are available at Viewpoint Books – get them in advance to be signed!) This is from The Lincoln-Central Neighborhood Family Center website. That is what they wrote on their website, but The Innocent Man” will be made into a movie. Dennis Fritz is the other Innocent Man in story and book. Dennis tells his own story in his book “Journey Toward Justice”. Dennis Fritz was close to Ron Williamson, they both lived the story together and were friends till Ron Williamson’s death in 2004. Dennis Fritz has many stories of their life and times together.

    More About YES Cinema
    YES Cinema is joined together with The Lincoln-Central Neighborhood Family Center. Located in historic downtown Columbus, Indiana and is a full-service resource center . The LCNFC serves neighborhood residents in a variety of ways including direct services , activities and referrals.
    The LCNFC was born out of concern that many Columbus residents’ needs were not being met. Issues typically thought of as “big city” problems – i.e. poverty, domestic violence, drug addiction, homelessness, etc. – routinely plague far too many of Columbus’ downtown residents. Spearheaded primarily through the efforts of the Focus 2000 Children, Youth and Families Initiative, the LCNFC was created, in large part, to find solutions for these concerns.

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