INDIANAPOLIS — Fabio de la Cruz stood in the parking lot of Lafayette Square Mall Wednesday morning, watching a helicopter lift new air conditioning units onto the roof and bring old ones down. Cruz, principal of Sojos Capital, sees accelerated renovations bringing his vision for the mall closer to reality.
Inside, construction workers have replaced shoppers. The mall closed last week to allow more efficiency with $200 million in renovations. The mall reopens Nov. 21, just in time for the holiday shopping season.
"It's exciting,” said de la Cruz. “It's something that still makes me wake up with a lot of energy to make change, especially for the people of this neighborhood and the people of the city that gave me so much."
The mall is being transformed into Window to the World, a mixed-use destination neighborhood with hallways turned into indoor streets with an international flavor. Anchor stores will be replaced with a hotel, event center, apartments, and office space.
A bold idea for an area that has suffered economically for a couple decades.
"That’s the history of my life anyway,” said de la Cruz, laughing. “Every time I do something, everybody says, 'Are you crazy?' And so far, it hasn't worked out bad, so I keep doing it. Obviously, people are not used to different things."
Sojos Capital reports that half of the available space was occupied with 45 tenants when the mall closed. The company says about 90% of those businesses expect to return in renovated spaces.
“They're really excited to be part of it,” said de la Cruz. “And as much as I thought that I could sell the vision, I never thought that pretty much everybody would be up for the vision."
The mall closed over a week ago, but people still drive by the entrance, or even walk up to the doors, not realizing the mall is closed for now. Most are also unaware that Sojos Capital owns about 250 acres in the area.
"The idea is, this is a neighborhood where I like to live, that I like to have always something to do, that I can do pretty much do the whole year around,” said de la Cruz. “At the same time, it's going to be an attraction for people that visit the neighborhood or visit the city."
Tenants who stay at the mall receive six months free rent, support for online sales during the closing, and design expertise for their renovated spaces. Shopper’s World, an anchor store with an outside entrance, remains open during the renovations.