Washington Square Mall finds tenant for L.S. Ayres anchor space

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Washington Square Mall, which has struggled with vacancies in recent years, has announced that International Plaza Marketplace will fill its empty anchor space.

The east side Indianapolis mall has had trouble finding a replacement for the space that once housed L.S. Ayres. Now a new business has moved in to the building.

Pedro Gracia, founder of International Plaza Marketplace, says it's a business "where we invite community vendors to come in here, set their booths up and sell their merchandise."

Half a dozen are already signed up, but Gracia has room for dozens more and is already having conversations with T-Mobile and DISH Network.

The marketplace opened last weekend. Longtime east side residents say they're happy to finally see something come into the mall.

On Friday afternoon, Liggy Cress was selling an item or two she bought at the Washington Square Mall years ago.

"First memories (of the mall), oh boy, that goes back a way," she laughed.

She says she has been sad to see the mall slowly empty out of the years.

"We've lost several, several stores. The north side and the south side I think are the only two that have really kept going," she said.

But now, there's a group trying to keep the east side going.

Gracia and his business partner are leasing the former L. S. Ayres building. The last empty anchor spot in the mall opened last weekend.

He explains his building will have several small stores set up in the large anchor store.

"A lady over in the corner is going to [set up and sell] clothing for ladies and her theme is 'I can dress you for under $20'," Gracia explains.

Just like an old-fashioned department store, food and services are also offered by various vendors.

"We have some ladies called Hairpolaza that are coming in here to cut hair," Gracia explained.

The profits from the plaza go toward another community project.

"Everything began because of our church needs in Frankfort, Indiana," he said.

Life Ministries Church needs a new building, so the money Gracia and his business partner make in rent will go toward that, helping to bring new life to Frankfort and to the east side of Indianapolis.

"We feel that God opened the doors for us so we could in return start a building fund for our church," Gracia said.

And while residents admit International Marketplace isn't a national name, they're interested about what's in store.

"I would like to go in just to see what they do have," Cress said.

The International Plaza Marketplace will be open from 10 am to 8 pm Thursday through Sunday.

Merchants must be family friendly; no alcohol or weapons will be sold.

A grand opening is slated for September 13.