Why America deserves its retail blight.

My latest was just published in full at Urban Indy.  It focuses on a new greenfield development proposed in Greenwood, the first suburb just south of Indianapolis.  The proposal, at a site just off of I-65 at County Line Road, includes 700,000 square feet of retail in what is anticipated to function as a lifestyle center arrangement, under the name “Greenwood Town Center”.  Here’s an early rendering.


I could easily cavil about the fact that this image makes it appear as though 85% of the site is devoted to parking lots, but it’s not so much about that.  The big question is whether Greenwood and Johnson County, growing at a reasonably good pace but certainly not surging, really need that much more square footage devoted to retail.  After all, within a five mile radius of this proposed development (indicated by the blue asterisk on the map below) are four other major retail nodes.Greenwood Map_edited-1I’ve ranked these by how vulnerable I think they will be to “retail cannibalism” from the new proposal–unless, of course, the new proposal flops.  But who’s going to win from all this?  Greenwood?  The south side of Indy?  Why is the United States so obscenely overbuilt with its retail?  This article explores this nationwide predicament, while offering potential solutions to help salvage the persistently successful Greenwood Park Mall, which I’ve also blogged about much in the past.

I look forward to any further discussion on the topic, from both Indy natives and those elsewhere across the country who can offer insight from their own examples.

6 thoughts on “Why America deserves its retail blight.

  1. Astara

    I really don’t understand this. As someone just as versed in mall culture, I don’t see the logic in opening this retail space so close to the mall and in an area that just plain can’t support it. I’m back in Indy now, as you may know, and my 4 metro area stores cannibalize one another as it is. Did I miss who the management company will be?

  2. Sean

    This is going to do to Greenwood Park Mall what GPM did to County Line Mall back in the day. New development is closer to the interstate and will usurp a significant amount of business. GPM is a relatively nice retail space with low occupancy and much around it, but there’s not enough to support two large retail spaces so close together.

  3. AmericanDirt Post author

    Hey Astara, congrats on the move back! The developer is Gershman Properties; not sure if they’ll manage. It’s kind of surprising, since this same company is doing a really smart urban infill project next to the Marott Building on Mass Ave. So it’s not like these developers strictly specialize in suburbia.

  4. AmericanDirt Post author

    Agreed, Sean. I don’t think this is going to help Greenwood in the long run. Multiple half-occupied shopping centers don’t usually improve the image of a city…and while the assessed value of this new shopping center will be better than its current status as a greenfield, it could ultimately lower the assessed value of GPM more than it improves anything else. Pure speculation on my part, but dying malls are usually worth a fraction of their value at their fully occupied peak.

  5. Chris Barnett

    So Eric, when Gershman announced this deal, I thought surely they had something big in their pocket, like Ikea.

    But Ikea’s going to Fishers.

    So…unless they buy themselves an anchor, and how would they ever outgun Simon…this may be the first power center ever to open with a Burlington. 🙂

  6. AmericanDirt Post author

    Yeah, I’m not too sanguine about this…obviously. But the City of Greenwood got a glowing review for this initiative from the IBJ!

    Yes, what major tenants remain unrepresented in the Greenwood area—that is, tenants that would realistically locate in Greenwood? Are they trying for Cabela’s again?

    It would be a sad day for Gershman if the company were reduced to recruiting Burlington Coat Factory. It already has a comfy space about two miles away, at Stop 11 and U.S 31, where it took space at what had previously been a Cub Foods…but was vacant for probably a decade after Cub closed.

    As you noted, “retail follows rooftops”, and the fact that the east of this site is nothing but cows and corn does not augur well. If this were a mixed-use facility with apartments interspersed, it could be a reasonably innovative town center that would also benefit from superior income density. From the renderings, though, it just looks like some strip malls carefully positioned side by side.


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