WOODMAR CENTER
Indianapolis Boulevard and East 165th Street
Hammond, Indiana

One of the first regional shopping centers in Chicago's Indiana suburbs was designed by Los Angeles' Victor Gruen & Assocates and developed by Chicago's Herbert Heyman and Howard Landau. WOODMAR CENTER was situated on 19.7 acres, located 1 mile south of downtown Hammond.

Eight inline stores held a collective grand opening in the spring of 1954, with the remaining eighteen beginning business in May of the same year. The 3 million dollar complex was anchored by a 2-level (65,000 square foot), Chicago-based Carson Pirie Scott. The store, which was the chain's second branch location and the first Carson's in Indiana, opened November 1, 1954.

The fully-completed WOODMAR CENTER encompassed 199,000 leasable square feet. Charter tenants included Kinney Shoes, Lerner Shops, Maternity Modes, Benson-Rixon men's wear, a National Food Stores supermarket and J.J. Newberry 5 & 10.

The center's first commercial competition came along in the mid-1960s. The fully-enclosed DIXIE SQUARE MALL {9.6 miles northwest, in Harvey, Illinois} held its grand opening in August 1966. RIVER OAKS CENTER, an open-air complex {3.6 miles west, in Calumet City, Illinois}, was dedicated in October 1966.

As a keeping up measure, WOODMAR CENTER had embarked on a renovation in late 1965. The open-canopied storefronts had glass-enclosed walkways installed and the Carson's store was expanded, to 111,000 square feet, with a connecting mall entrance and third level. The newly-enclosed shopping center, now known as WOODMAR MALL, was dedicated in March 1966, with the remodeled Carson's being completed in June.

A subsequent renovation, in 1975, turned the recently-vacated Newberry's (on the north end of the structure) into a 12-store, mini-mall; the Court of Lions. In 1977,  the supermarket spot (on the mall's south end) was remade into an 8-store mini-mall; the Court of Turtles. New stores included So Fro Fabrics and Foxmoor Casuals.

A prospective expansion of the WOODMAR property, into a 3-anchor, 750,000 square foot shopping venue, was abandoned due to the sluggish, late 1970s, economy.

A smaller enlargement, built onto the southeast corner in 1982, added five inline stores. This area, and the luncheonette portion of Walgreen Drug, became the 6-bay Woodmar Cafe Food Court in 1985. WOODMAR MALL now encompassed 275,000 leasable square feet and fifty-two stores and services.

The location of the mall, in a largely industrial area, eventually contributed to its decline. Moreover, the closing of several steel plants in the vicinity took its toll on the local economy. A new Wal-Mart and supermarket, built on adjoining property west of WOODMAR, was the final nail in the mall's proverbial coffin.

By the early 1990s, the shopping hub was plagued by vacant store spaces. At the end of the decade, its owner, the Woodmar Liability Corporation, was bankrupt. The center was acquired by a Denver-based insurance company, but its decline continued.

A group of California-based investors bought the past-its-prime property in February 2003, with a redevelopment announced in May. Unfortunately, the project never got off the ground. The twelve remaining tenants complained about the center's leaking roofs, overflowing sewers and pot-holed parking lot. The mall's management was around only when rents were due.

Northbrook, Illinois-based Praedium Development came on the scene in 2005, with a plan to demolish all of the shopping center, save for Carson's. The plan was to build a new 127,000 square foot strip center, and 2-level (100,000 square foot) Carson's, and then raze the original Carson's and pave its area as a parking lot. Demolition of the mall structure got underway in February 2006.

One of many snags were encountered when Saks Incorporated sold the Carson's chain to York, Pennsylvania-based The Bon Ton Stores in March 2006. Eventually, the plan for an all-new Carson's store was scrapped; the existing store would not be replaced. However, it would remain open during the mall's demolition.

After various red tape-type hurdles were overcome, ground was broken on a new WOODMAR CENTER in February 2011. Work ground to a halt a few months later but resumed in October 2011. Two strip-type retail buildings were erected on the north end of the site, with one encompassing 12,000 leasable square feet. The parking lot was also repaved.

The first tenant in the new complex, a Subway sandwich shop, opened for business in February 2012. No further retail-based development occurred. In June 2016, the City of Hammond announced plans to purchase the mall site and build a 12 million dollar sports complex.

Sources:

preservenet.cornell.edu/publications/Longstreth Branch Store.doc
http://www.geocities.com/Jaloweplays/woodmar.html / John Arthur Lowe
www.hammonindiana.com
www.labelscar.com
Comment post by "Ailin"
www.praediumdevelopment.com
www.nwtimes.com