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. 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 in the mid-1960s. DIXIE SQUARE MALL {9.6 miles northwest, in Harvey, Illinois} held its grand opening in August 1966. RIVER OAKS CENTER {3.6 miles west, in Calumet City, Illinois} was dedicated in the following October.

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

A subsequent renovation, in 1975, turned a vacant Newberry's dime store into a 12-store, mini-mall, which was known as the Court of Lions. In 1977,  the supermarket was rebuilt into an 8-store mini-mall; the Court of Turtles. New mini-mall stores included So Fro Fabrics and Foxmoor Casuals.

An major enlargement of the mall was also proposed. WOODMAR was re-envisaged as a 3-anchor, 750,000 square foot, shopping venue. However, this expansion was never built. A small-scale enlargement was constructed on the southeast corner in 1982, which 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 contained 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 -proverbial- nail in the mall's coffin.

By the early 1990s, the shopping hub was virtually vacant. By the end of the decade, its owner was bankrupt. The center was acquired by a Denver-based insurance company, but remained in a downward spiral.

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. Reputedly, mall management was only around 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. The original Carson's was -then- to be demolished. Demolition of the mall structure got underway in February 2006.

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

After several starts and stops, ground was broken for a new WOODMAR CENTER in February 2011. Work ground to a halt a few months later but resumed in October. 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.

In June 2016, the City of Hammond announced plans to purchase the mall site and build a 17 million dollar sports complex. This 135,000 square foot facility would house indoor soccer fields, baseball diamonds, volleyball courts, batting cages and a running track. Ground was broken for the project in August 2017, with its official dedication being held in September 2018.


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