Southside Shopping Center Is Thriving With New Owner & Major Makeover

Writer / Suzanne Huntzinger

Photographer / JWCreative.Indy 

A little shopping center on the corner of Smith Valley Road and State Road 135 was once thriving with businesses. Central to residents in the Center Grove School District and Greenwood School District, the Centre at Smith Valley was once bustling with people who needed to pick up prescriptions, get their nails done and various other services at the center. But then, something happened that changed everything for the strip mall.

Retail drug store chain, CVS, decided to move out of the strip mall to a standalone location at the corner. Once the big anchor left, many of the other small businesses failed and the spaces sat empty. It wasn’t long before the strip mall started becoming shaggy and run down. With just a few tenants left, the center went into foreclosure. The 2008-2009 recession hit hard, and even by 2012, recovery was sluggish. Buyers weren’t exactly standing in line, and it seemed no options were in sight.

Thomas English Retail Real Estate, a Broad Ripple-based real estate investment and development firm, got wind of the center and gladly put it on their radar. The company has been around since 2004, with solid experience in both the Indianapolis and national markets. On top of that, owner Tom English has ties to the southside. Though he grew up in Pike Township, much of his family is from the southside, and the company has done several projects in that area.

Now the company was looking for more properties to add to their portfolio. Projects like this rarely happen, and the company was primed to pursue it. But the bank threw a monkey wrench on those plans at first. They made a smart move and decided to bundle the property along with several other properties and sell them all off quickly as one package. Hudson Advisors answered the call and they bought the entire package at once.

The property was off English Retail Real Estate’s radar just like that, but not for long. Hudson made plans to renovate and revitalize the center. Until they realized the magnitude and scope of the project. It would take a mountain of time and resources to bring back the property. So, after about a year and a half, they agreed to sell the center to Thomas English Retail Real Estate in November of 2015.

Tom and his team took about a year to carefully form a concept, strategize, make plans and get all necessary approvals. Before construction began, occupancy at the strip center was just 20 percent.

“Those remaining occupants hung with us during the construction,” English says. “We renegotiated leases, some chose to expand. But they remained open for business during the construction, customers navigated their way through scaffolding and other inconveniences, and we got through it.”

The next phase involved creating a strategy for what businesses to target for the marketing of their empty spaces.

“When you need tenants, the rule of thumb is the new, post-recession real estate mantra — the five ‘Fs,’ he says. “That’s fun, fashion, furniture, fitness and food. That’s a lifestyle approach. Starting with that, our goal was to attract businesses and chains in those categories.”

Scoring strong in those categories were Orangetheory Fitness, Sola, PetPeople, Goldfish Swim School, Today’s Home Furnishings and others.

“These are the businesses that attract the demographic that will keep this center thriving,” English says. “We wanted to hook some of these national and local chains that seem to land only in the north burbs. Southsiders are happy to see they now have some things usually just the northside gets.”

Once those businesses signed on, several others fell into place, and the center made its big debut in April 2017.

“It was a seven-year evolution,” English adds. “But it’s fun when you can take a long journey and see such great results at the end of the road.”

The first year took a bit to catch on but still showed strong results. Then 2018 was even better.

“Now we’re on fire, and we’ve only got three open spaces left,” English says. “This rebirth has helped businesses thrive. Orangetheory’s gym memberships skyrocketed. So, now it’s time to refine our focus and think about promoting the community.”

The retail community at the Centre at Smith Valley has almost beaten them to the punch.

“The business owners have been meeting to discuss doing a kickoff event to promote the center,” English says. “That sense of community and support of each other’s businesses is exactly what we want to see happen. Having a mixed group of complementary businesses is what makes shopping centers successful. It provides its own best marketing. It’s great to see the business owners so protective of their own.”

Even though the lion’s share of the project is over, the developer isn’t finished with it.

“I see a long future of growth, and we intend to stay involved,” English says. “This center is our finest example of nailing it. It’s the most important property in our portfolio.”

If you haven’t ventured to the Centre, you’re missing out. You can work out at Orangetheory or Club Pilates, get a manicure at Paris Nails or get a waxing at The Naked Monkey, get a tan at Air-Tan, get a new hairstyle at Sola, pick up a new piece for your closet at Sweet Olive & Co. Boutique, buy your wife or husband some new jewelry at Midwest Jewelry & Coin, drop off your taxes at H&R Block, close on your new home at Meridian Title and shop for new furniture at Today’s Home Furnishings, grab some food for your pet at PetPeople and then come back later for some dinner at Margarita’s or Green Ginger.

The Centre at Smith Valley is located at 1675 West Smith Valley Road in Greenwood. Visit their Facebook page for more details and follow them on Instagram at @centreatsmithvalley. You can also find each of the businesses at the Centre on Facebook and Instagram.