It took about 15 minutes for an excavator to take down the eastern wall of the J.C. Penney store.
The outward demolition started Monday morning, and through the early afternoon, excavator operator Clay Carroll of Alpha Demolition and Excavation of Sunman, Ind., demolished a section of the wall at a time.
“It’s kind of sad to see it go,” said Joe DiCosola, whose company Park Development, LLC, bought the former Logansport Mall on Feb. 21. “That’s the hard part of this business. When you’re take something down, you’re taking people’s memories.”
The Penney building is being totally removed to make room for a Hampton Inn by Hilton hotel that is planned to be built by spring 2022.
It’s not just the roughly 62,000-square-foot building that’s coming down. The foundation, footings and even the curbs around the building are coming out, DiCosola said.
It’ll take three to four weeks.
Tearing it down is the easy part, while cleanup and removals will take time, he said.
In Chicago, where Park Development is from, there’d be companies that would scavenge the brick for other construction, but that doesn’t happen out here.
There’s also about two to three inches of stone on the roof that protected it from winds, which the Sears on the west end of the mall didn’t have.
Although the old Penney building is the only part coming down now, the south end of the mall will be removed, making it into a larger strip mall with an overall theme and aesthetic that the hotel will share, DiCosola said.
The mall’s new name is The Junction at Logansport.
Its new front will be along where the entrance to Dunham’s Sports is and stretch west to east with other stores flush to that.
“Dunham’s will be the face of the mall,” he said.
And the former Sears will be detached, a separate building.
There’s a Planet Fitness going into the back of the old Sears and set to open next month, and the old Sears automotive area is being gutted and readied for a restaurant with a potential second floor and outdoor dining area.
DiCosola would like a brewery there, most likely a national chain, which he thinks the city needs.
It could also be something like the Cooper’s Hawk Winery in Southlake Mall in Merrillville.
The reason for changing the mall from a walk-through shopping center to stand alone stores is the market.
“There’s just no demand for it,” DiCosola said. “The whole idea of indoor shopping is on its way out.”
Online stores like Amazon have hurt stores with a physical presence, and people don’t want to park and walk into a mall.
They want to pull up, get what they want and get out, he said.
Park Development chose the mall for what could be.
“We see potential here,” DiCosola said.
With two major stores gone but Walmart and Home Depot doing well, “There’s obviously a void to be filled,” he added.
He said without the mayor’s office, the planning department, Cass County Logansport Economic Development Organization and the people there, “this project never would’ve happened.”
Before the Penney building came down, crews cleared out a lot of fixtures, although some are still left — including a desk.
People had said they wanted some of them but never showed for them.
The mall itself is full of things he’d like to see people take.
The tempered glass doors for some stores can run $50,000 to $75,000, and the motorized safety doors that come down over the store fronts can run $4,000.
He doesn’t want to see them go to waste.
His company did give one of the benches from the inside of the mall to a woman who wanted to buy one for her father, who worked at Sears since it opened, and some Christmas decorations have been passed on to others.
Park Development is still talking with potential tenants for the mall.
DiCosola said the COVID-19 restrictions slowed demolition and work and some interest.
National companies with big names will bring in other tenants, and with Walmart, Home Depot and Dollar Tree in that area having their best years, the traffic to bring in customers is there.
The hotel will bring in more potential customers.
The company plans to have about 70 to 75 percent nationally known retailers and the rest local stores.
The company also plans to put in a sidewalk after the hotel is finished that will connect the mall property with the Walmart to the north, making the area friendly to cross-store traffic.