INDIANAPOLIS — Lafayette Square Mall and the surrounding International Marketplace area are undergoing a major transformation over the next few years.
A local real estate developer who has bought properties for 15 years in the area unveiled a grand plan Wednesday to create a mixed-use destination neighborhood on the near northwest side.
The mall has struggled for years, even more than most malls, in a distressed economic area. But local owner Fabio de la Cruz, principal of Sojos Capital, sees great potential with a plan to invest $200 million in phase one of turning the mall and surrounding campus into what will be called Window to the World.
de la Cruz came to the United States from Argentina in 2001 during an economic crisis in his homeland. He said his first job in Indianapolis was washing dishes at a Don Pablo's restaurant. He went on to become a loan officer, appraiser, and top-producing real estate agent.
"The malls as we know it, they are no longer viable,” said de la Cruz at a news conference Tuesday morning. “That's why what we're doing now is trying to think of the mall as a neighborhood where the anchor stores will be apartment complexes, boutique hotels, corporate offices, etc."
The concept is to turn the mall campus into a neighborhood where people live, work, play, eat and still shop.
Antonio Maxie opened the Nap or Nothing store in the mall several years ago, selling his Indianapolis-based brand apparel.
"It's my first location, so it's been awesome,” said Maxie. “I've grown here. I've matured here as a businessman. I love it here."
Maxie watched video renderings of the mall redevelopment and likes what he sees. He just hopes many current locally owned business tenants like him can afford to stay after the improvements.
"The mall deserves it. This area deserves it. West 38th Street deserves it. As long as it embodies the community that West 38th Street is, then I think it's a plus,” said Maxie.
De la Cruz said the mall will remain open during the renovations. He hopes some of his current tenants will remain.
"The best way for me to be successful is to have the best property in the neighborhood, charge a little bit less, and that way I can choose my tenants,” said de la Cruz.
Sojos Capital raised and closed a qualified Opportunity Zone Fund, providing the capital source for Window to the World.
Due to the condition of the mall when it was acquired, Sojos Capital said it has already spent $6 million on immediate improvements like repairing and replacing the roof, changing the air conditioning units and adding security enhancements.
The first phase includes:
- 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.
The overall project goes well beyond the mall to other properties in the area:
- Exterior improvements at 5046-5210 W. Pike Plaza Road (where Carniceria Guanajuato, Yummy Crab and others are located)
- Exterior improvements at 4351 Lafayette Road (where AT&T store, Sizzling Wok and others are located)
- Exterior improvements at 2802 Lafayette Road (Eagledale Plaza Shopping Center)
- Exterior improvements at 4002 N. High School Road (where JM Dry Cleaners, K-Arise Store and others are located)
Other Sojos Capital projects opening soon or under renovation, include:
- 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)
Sojos Capital owns more than 250 acres in the Lafayette Square Mall and International Marketplace area.