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When you think of the Fashion Mall at Keystone you think of Saks, a new Nordstrom, Crate and Barrel, Pottery Barn, Tiffany & Co., Sony Style, Bebe, the Cheesecake Factory and the list of upscale retail goes on.

When you think of Lafayette Square Mall, there’s Victoria’s Secret, Foot Locker, Bath and Body Works, Lady Footlocker, Kids Footlocker, Verizon, T-Mobile, Hat World, and in the food court, Fu-Jun Café, and Fish and Wings.

Notice a difference in the quality of retail and the space in itself? Although both malls are owned by the Simon Property Group Inc., many feel that while there have been strides taken to improve the Fashion Mall, the same time, care and enthusiasm has not been shown to Lafayette Square.

It is true, both malls cater to different demographics and are on different sides of town, but even city officials agree that there is less growth happening at the Westside mall than there is on the Northside of town.

“(Lafayette Square Mall) hasn’t seen the same type of growth. I think the commitment made in other places really needs to be made to that mall and to that area,” said City-County Councilwoman Cherrish Pryor.

The Lafayette Square area is on the rise with a significant beautification effort, road construction, new businesses, such as the upcoming Wal-Mart, and other retail shops. Business owners, homeowners, organizations such as the Lafayette Square Area Coalition (LSAC), and the Westside district councilor are working hard to bring jobs, a sense of pride, and a change in the negative image the area has been cloaked with.

Some link the decreased patronage to over-hyped crime and Westsiders simply spending their dollars in other malls. The councilwoman believes there is no more crime in Lafayette Square Mall than other malls; it’s the perception that there is.

Though there has been a spark of new business and increased community action, is that enough to make Indianapolis residents spend their money specifically in Lafayette Square Mall? Les Morris, spokesperson for Simon Property Group does admit the amount of publicity is unequal but stands firm that Simon devotes the same amount of attention to each of their properties worldwide.

“You’re right, that’s something we should publicize more. Can we do a better job of it, yes. Do we devote a lot of attention to all of our malls, yes. We have development teams that are focused on our properties to try to make them better and that includes Lafayette Square,” said Morris.

Instead of adding new, mainstream stores like Saks in Keystone Mall or bringing large anchor stores into the space, like Macy’s in Castleton Square mall, Morris is positive that renewed leases and community efforts is what will bring shoppers to the mall and change its perception.

“We have become very active in the community. Recently we had Bobby Valentino to perform in our Simon D-Tour, we’re members and active in the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, there’s the Mozel Sanders Radiothon at Thanksgiving, and the Simon Youth Foundation (to name a few),” said the Simon spokesperson.

“It’s not a twofold relationship. You work at safety, are active in the community, and recognize the community is becoming more international. We want to change that perception by attracting people to the mall, hopefully for shopping (and) for community events.”

With the apparent difference between the Fashion Mall and Lafayette Square Mall, many further wonder if it is in fact an issue of race. Pike Township is one of the most diverse townships in the city while Keystone Mall is located in a predominantly white area.

Morris disagrees that race is even a factor in their business practices but Pryor, has complete hope that the mall will change for the better despite racial patterns and crime perception.

“I would hope (race is not an issue), but I think people have their perceptions. When the media talks about the crime happening at the mall it’s generally the face of an African-American. People are making decisions about where they want to put their business,” said the Westside Democrat. “(Soon) there’ll be stores by the Wal-Mart, BP may reopen, with all of that, that has to rub off in making that area better.”

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