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Lafayette Square to get $200 million makeover

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Lafayette Square mall’s new owner says he plans on spending more than $200 million not just to transform the mall, but to transform the entire west side of Indianapolis.   

When I-Team 8 went to Lafayette Square around noon on a weekday, there was hardly a soul around.  

“It is an eyesore right now,” Joshua Johnson of Indianapolis said. “It has been an eyesore for years … everyone knows that. It’s not fun to come to the mall anymore.”

The mall lost its last major retail anchor more than a decade ago when Sears and Macy’s both closed their stores. The new owner, Fabio de la Cruz, says he plans to bring the mall back to life. But there are questions about the safety and security of the area.  

“First, we put high tech cameras in all of our properties,” de la Cruz said. “The second thing that we did is we changed the security course that they have. We have, actually, police officers right now. We have drones. The kind of technology that we have right now is unbelievable.”

De la Cruz is relatively new to Indianapolis. He says he came to the United States 20 years ago from Argentina and worked in kitchens while learning the real estate business. His plan for the mall is like nothing ever seen in Indianapolis. There are plans to transform retail space into a hotel, and add 200 apartments and townhomes in the area around the mall.   

Additional plans include adding soccer fields and other recreational facilities — including a dance studio — along with an international concert center that is planned for the middle of the mall. De la Cruz says the mall will be a destination and believes the transformation will kick start the west side economy while lowering the crime rate.  

“We are talking a holistic approach where we are trying to build a neighborhood and all aspects of that: entertainment, sports, youth, older. And that is part of security also because sometimes people think that putting more police is going to help. You have to target the root of the problem,” de la Cruz said. 

In total, the Window to the World project takes in more than 100 acres and more than a million square feet of indoor space. The existing structure of the mall will stay the same. There are a lot of “ifs” in de la Cruz’s overall proposal along with limited details of how certain parcels of land will be used. It is no secret the mall and the area around it have been on an economic and security roller coaster for more than a decade. Johnson says any investment in the area is welcome.  

“They need to do something with this and invest and bring more money to the community. As long as they have a good game plan and execute it, I’m all for it,” he said. 

For such a substantial investment in the city, it was notable Mayor Joe Hogsett was absent from the announcement. The Indianapolis Department of Metropolitan Development did send a statement to I-Team 8: “The Department of Metropolitan Development is looking forward to collaborating with Sojos Capital and the northwest side community on the revitalization of the Lafayette Square mall area. The planned, substantial investments announced today represent an enormous opportunity to accelerate momentum and boost growth in the International Marketplace, a neighborhood vital for the overall equity and prosperity of Indianapolis.” 

De la Cruz says he is making some immediate repairs to the mall right now and hopes to have the project ready for the shopping season next year.