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April 9, 2014

KITCHELL: Charette charades a game no one may win

What’s in store for the Logansport Mall?

That’s a good question worth having consultants explore via a community planning exercise or “charette,” even if the owners of the mall aren’t at the table when the discussion is being held. That’s precisely what happened Saturday morning when community officials, local residents and consultants met downtown to mull over possibilities for what could come to the east end of Logansport if the Logansport Mall is no more.

There were sharp aesthetic renderings featuring edgy red brick complements to the area bordered by East Market, High Street, Mall Road and Yorktown Road. It was somewhat of a stark contrast to what the mall is today — storefronts dark during much of the day and spaces once occupied by fashion’s Paul Harris that are now the home of play practices. A church makes its home in one space and A Cause for Paws makes its presence felt every Saturday morning. Such is the fate for some malls such as Logansport’s which have evolved from the once thriving retail centers they were in the 1970s and 1980s to sparsely occupied real estate that has fallen victim to a 21st century retail landscape.

Can this mall be saved? According to one consultant, that’s not likely, even if a new owner emerges. But what may be an even larger question is can the mall property be redeveloped to become something akin to north Carmel in Indiana?

There are some big “ifs” to answering that question, one of which arose during the discussion: If there is private investment to meet a public commitment to take control of the mall property and require new Planned Unit Developmental standards that can only result in something grand replacing the mall space. But if it doesn’t? Well, then we’re all just playing a game of charette charades that could mean a loss of millions for the community without any job creation.

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