WASHINGTON SQUARE MALL
South Green River Road and Washington Avenue
Evansville, Indiana

The first mall in "Eville" was also the Hoosier State's first enclosed shopping center. WASHINGTON SQUARE, designed by Evansville's Ralph Robert Knapp, was developed the city's Erie Investments, Incorporated. The complex was built on 38.5 acres, located 4.2 miles southeast of the downtown area.

Comprised of a single retail level, the 375,000 square foot mall opened for business October 31, 1963. It was anchored by a 2-level (125,000 square foot) Sears and an A & P supermarket. Charter tenants included Three Sisters ladies' wear, Kinney Shoes, Libs Candies and Washington Square Drug.

The first expansion was completed in 1969. A 23,000 square foot store block was added to the mall's south side, along with a 2-level (134,500 square foot), Louisville-based Stewart Dry Goods. WASHINGTON SQUARE now encompassed approximately 532,500 leasable square feet. An in-mall cinematic venue, the Carrols Washington Square I & II, opened for business January 12, 1973.

Competition arrived in the following decade. EASTLAND MALL {1.3 miles northwest, in Evansville} welcomed its first shoppers in August 1981. This new retail center siphoned-off a great deal of trade from its older counterpart.

WASHINGTON SQUARE was given a 30 million dollar renovation between 1986 and 1987. Sears was enlarged to 161,500 square feet and 50,000 square feet of inline store space was added to the mall's east side.

Moreover, the complex was given an indoor-outdoor face lift, which included installation of the Teflon tent-covered Cafe Food Court. The mall now housed approximately 574,000 leasable square feet. Its renewal was successful for a time, but eventually EASTLAND MALL prevailed.

Over the years, the south anchor at WASHINGTON SQUARE would be rebranded and repurposed a number of times. During the first conversion, the Stewart's store morphed into an Indianapolis-based L.S. Ayres. This change took place on November 1, 1985.

In the spring of 1991, mall management shot themselves in the foot, so to say, by instituting a 10 dollar "mall walkers registration fee". After receiving national media attention, all negative, the fee was dropped in August.

L.S. Ayres was shuttered on January 19, 1992. Dayton-based Elder-Beerman opened in the space on October 16, 1993. They pulled out of the mall in December 2000. Filling the vacancy proved challenging. Evansville's Eugene Hahn and Paul Kite acquired the shopping center in March 2002.

They retenanted the empty south anchor box by opening Values Unlimited, a discount outlet, in October 2004. This endeavor was unsuccessful and the space was vacant again by March 2007. There was talk of the local Bethel Temple Church leasing the empty anchor in April 2009. This never came to fruition.

What did come to pass was a reinvention of the vacant south anchor as a 500-stall "mall within a mall". Merchant Outlet Mall opened for business July 2, 2010... but closed June 30, 2012.

Mall owners hired the BRR Architecture firm to conceptualize a redevelopment of the property into an open-air grocery-anchored facility. The plan was to gut the interior of the mall and reconfigure all retail spaces toward the outside. The existing Sears would remain as is. The vacant south anchor, and a section of the south mallway, would be demolished.

A (65,000 square foot) Schnucks supermarket would be built. The new strip center would have housed 406,800 leasable square feet and included retail, restaurant, medical and office space. Unfortunately, Schnucks backed out of the plan in February 2015, in effect, throwing a monkey wrench into the project.

A clandestine, New York State company acquired WASHINGTON SQUARE in November 2016 and recruited Hahn Kiefer Real Estate Services to manage the property. It was announced that renovation work would soon begin. By April 2017, with no work underway, it was surmised -by some- that the renovation had been abandoned. The shuttering of the mall's Sears, in April 2018, may have presented an additional stumbling block.

Sources:

"Washington Square" article on Wikipedia
http://movie-theatre.org
www.civic.evansville.net
Vandergurgh County, Indiana property tax assessor website
www.brrarch.com (BRR Architecture)
http://arc-construction.com (Arc Construction Company)