Kory's Commentary:

Posted September 7, 2005 (user submitted)

I remember Lafayette Square Mall being the place to be back in the day. When I was a child in the early 1990's, my mother would take me to Lafayette Square to go shopping. Of all the malls, Lafayette Square was the most convenient. It is located 4 miles northwest of downtown Indianapolis on Lafayette Road. I say it was convenient because we did not have a car, and Lafayette Square had convenient bus service to the mall every 15-30 minutes. Because of its convenience we were avid shoppers there.

My memories of Lafayette Square circa 1992 are this: A large mall, with about 100 or so stores and shops. At the time, it was anchored by Sears, J.C.Penney, Lazarus, L.S.Ayres, Montgomery Ward, and G.C.Murphy. Other notable stores include Hook's drugs, restaurants like Orange Julius and Wendy's, and several kiosks.

I have distinct memories of the mall area itself. Directly across the street was a Cub Foods. Cub was a mega supermarket chain based in the midwest. It was strategically placed across from the mall; shoppers could enjoy themselves at Lafayette Square, then head across to Cub for some groceries. Cub reached its peak around 1992 or 1993; more on Cub later.

Anyway, also near the mall was several chain strip malls, like Lafayette Place, which had stores like Phar-Mor (which has since closed) and Venture (which also closed). There were also movie cinemas nearby, like Cinema IV-V-VI, which could only be reached by bridge behind the back of the mall parking lot.

Sadly, the mall started its downfall in the mid-90's. First, G.C. Murphy closed around 1994. Next, the cinema just to the right of the mall's main entrance closed and was replaced by an Old Navy, which has since closed, too. Then, the Loews cinema to the north of the Sears wing closed. (There was a cinema located on Georgetown Road just north of Lafayette Square that closed sometime in the mid to late 1980's.) The cinema behind the mall parking lot parallel to I-65 closed as well. This set of a chain reaction that indicated Lafayette Square was in trouble.

By the late 1990's, desperate attempts to revitalize the mall were in full effect. Since 1995, shoppers started heading in flocks downtown to the much, MUCH better Circle Centre mall. Many headed north to Castleton Square, a mall much larger and more prosperous than Lafayette Square. At one time, the two malls were rivals.

A food court was added in 1997 that featured a McDonalds, Luca Pizza, Cinnabon, Wok-Right-In, Nick's Gyros, and Charley's Steakery. Also in 1997, the entrances to the mall were redesigned and the mall's interior underwent a dramatic renovation. Around 1998, Hook's Drugs (now CVS) closed and a Kittle's furniture store opened in its place. From 1998-2001, the mall actually did well again.

Then, in 2001, the Cub Foods located across from the mall closed suddenly due to slowing sales. A Hardees restaurant located next to the supermarket closed. Meanwhile, 4 blocks south on Lafayette Road, the K-Mart which occupied the former Venture space was remodeled into a Super K-Mart. Nine months later, not surprisingly, it closed. Waccamaw, which occupied the Murphy store, closed. The mall itself became a haven for urban stores as white shoppers left for much better malls like the ones named above. Blacks continued to shop at the mall, leading to all kinds of theft and robbery problems. The mall was dubbed "Lafayette Scare" due to all the thefts and robberies. In 2003, Lazarus closed its doors, followed by J.C.Penney, longtime mall anchor since it opened in 1968. MCL Cafeteria, a longtime mall tenant, closed its doors.

So what helped hurt Lafayette Square? The influx of more urban shoppers, as well as a new downtown mall, considered by many to be the best in America. Sales across the entire region that slowed through the 1990's. Even though Lafayette Square is still near capacity in terms of its tenants and shoppers, the mall is destined to a fate similar to that of Eastgate. Unlike Lafayette Square, Washington Square and Glendale were both dying malls in the late 1990's that re-emerged from the dead. Even today, Glendale, Washington Square, and Lafayette Square still do not have half the shoppers they had in the 1980's, and so, they are destined for plywood.

Jason Wainman's Commentary:

Posted September 4, 2003 (user submitted)

This was one of the first malls Indianapolis had that was enclosed. Built in 1968, Lafayette Square was originally anchored by Sears, Penney's, G. C. Murphy, and Blocks. Around 1972, additions were made that would add Lazarus and L. S. Ayres to the mall. In 1986, the mall received a slight redecoration -- it was at this time that Blocks became Lazarus, and the vacant Lazarus became Wards (which would later shutter in 1997). By 1997, the mall was renovated again, and Waccamaw came into the space that G. C. Murphy once occupied when the store closed in late 1993 -- a food court was also added to get the mall going again.

1998 was to be the last few years the mall would remain strong. The newest addition, Burlington Coat Factory, moved into the first level of what was once Wards, and Waccamaw would move out in 2000, which was when the mall started to decay financially.

As I said before, 2000 was when the mall began to experience trouble. Waccamaw went out of business, and a smaller chain filled the space one year later. It was also around this time that a crime problem began to develop at the mall -- enhanced by the closure of the General Cinemas Theatres in 1998 and the Loews Theatres in 2001.

2002 was when signs of the mall decaying became evident. While the mall is still at 80..90% capacity, I fear that once Penney's is gone, it will only be a matter of time before this mall ends up like most of the malls featured on the website.

Further complicating matters is the recent closure of MCL Cafeteria (they decided not to renew their lease at the mall), Lazarus (the merger with Macy's was probably the main reason why the store at Lafayette Square closed), the Video Arcade (not something you want to have happen when there is a mall with lots of kids around!), and of course Penney's, which as of this writing, will close around 31-Dec 2003. Rumors persist that a Penney's, opening in an open-air shopping center planned for Plainfield, Indiana, is the reason that Lafayette Square is losing its Penney's store, which I'm surprized lasted this long without much renovation (the lone exception being the flooring tiles on the first level) since the store opened in 1968.

Originally, I thought that Washington Square and Eastgate Mall (now being changed into a flea market mall now) were going to share the same fate, but I learned Washington Square was going to have a second life when Target moved in around October 1999, and Burlington Coat Factory is scheduled to open November 2003, and rumors persist that Dick's Sporting Goods may open where Lazarus once stood when that store closed in 2002 -- unlike Lafayette Square, Washington Square Mall still has a chance.

Basically, my point is that the owners of this mall are trying desperately to keep it afloat, but given the current scenario, I have a feeling that if the mall's problems aren't turned around rather quickly, I look for the mall to shutter sometime around 2005.

The area around the mall itself needs some economic stimulus, since it appears the malls troubles may be spreading to areas just around the mall -- the Super K-Mart being a good example, was closed just eight months after it had been expanded.

Right now, it's just a game of "wait and see"...

Matt's Commentary:

Posted September 4, 2003 (user submitted)

Dubbed Lafayette Scare by locals, this mall is known for shootings, theft, and crime scares. It was recently renovated and reopened about 5 years ago to mark its legacy as the first indoor mall in Indiana. This still hasn't made it that desirable. Formerly anchored by JCPenney, Sears, Wards, L. S. Ayres, and Lazarus, only Sears and L. S. Ayres remain. Burlington Coat Factory took the Wards space. A good mall to profile that features both old and new but in a crime atmosphere.

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