Converted from paper version of the Broad Ripple Gazette (v04n07)
Tammy's Take - By Tammy Leiber
posted: Apr. 06, 2007
A few weeks ago, I was at that time-honored gathering place, the hair salon, catching up with my stylist about the usual-family, dogs, work, etc.
Conversation meandered to the overhaul now under way at Glendale Mall, a subject Jennifer and her co-workers at the Salon at Macy's (formerly Elizabeth Arden Salon at L.S. Ayres) are keenly interested in.
The salon, like the department store, has held its own over the past several years as the rest of the enclosed mall has withered. Jennifer and her colleagues, now secure in the knowledge that Macy's will remain at Glendale, are excited about the possibility of the new customers and new life that renovations, including a proposed Target, will bring to the shopping center.
She noted, however, that some of her customers lament the end of the old Glendale, which was the first enclosed shopping mall in Indianapolis. Some of those who were around when it opened apparently aren't convinced that an outdoor shopping center will succeed.
The conversation got me thinking about the changing face of retail, not just in Broad Ripple, but nationwide. The skeptics make a good point. This is Indiana, after all. Why would anyone forego the opportunity to make one frigid (or wet, or sweltering) trip from the car to the mall's front door in exchange for separate trips to each store?
Apparently we're gluttons for punishment. When Glendale converted to an enclosed mall in the late 1960's, customers welcomed the opportunity to do all their shopping indoors. For many years, malls were the place for families to knock out their shopping list in one place.
Now, however, the kids who grew up in malls (myself included) and their children are more likely to go outdoors, to sprawling "lifestyle centers" like Metropolis and Clay Terrace, for big shopping trips. For day-to-day shopping, we're apt to visit neighborhood "power centers" like Nora Plaza or Trader's Point, where several big-box retailers are linked by smaller specialty stores. We can quickly duck in and out of one or two stores and be done with it.
For the past several years, local retail brokers and developers have been quietly saying Glendale's only hope was to become a power center. Its location is still one of the best in the city-one need only travel the intersection of 62nd Street and Keystone Avenue on a Saturday afternoon to realize how much traffic passes by.
Yet while thousands of cars whizzed past outside, you could practically hear crickets chirping in the wide halls of the mall. An acquaintance and I used to chat about how we liked shopping at Glendale, back before national retailers like Old Navy and Limited abandoned it, because we didn't have to deal with crowds.
Obviously, that lack of crowds wasn't good news for the mall's owner, locally-based Kite Realty Group. Kite made a good go of reviving Glendale, sinking millions of dollars into it for a high-profile, well-done renovation. It worked for a while, till the tenants fled once again.
Now Kite is sinking another estimated $28.5 million, including $6.5 million of city subsidies, into Glendale to tear down the middle part. The developer is betting the investment this time will finally translate into profit. As shoppers, it seems like a win-win: we get to keep Macy's, Lowe's, Kerasotes Theaters and the Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library.
Plus, we get back our Target, if all goes according to plan. As I've half-jokingly told a few people, "I may never have to drive north of 65th Street again!"
It's true, power centers lack the comfort and atmosphere of an enclosed mall. I doubt many kids today will fondly remember holiday shopping trips to Trader's Point. But I predict that when the overhaul is finished in a couple of years, the only people who will miss the old Glendale Mall will be the mall-walkers who in the end were the mall's most loyal patrons.
They might want to bundle up and bring an umbrella.
Tammy Lieber is a freelance writer who lives in Meridian Kessler, otherwise known as SoBro. A former reporter at the Indianapolis Business Journal, she now writes journalism and marketing pieces when she's not fixing up her house or enjoying the company of friends over a pint of Guinness. Her favorite spectator sport is politics, except on Sundays during football season. Email her at email@example.com