The Birth of a Shopping Giant
Tucked in the dynamic landscape of Evansville, Indiana, the Washington Square Mall has long been a fixture of this bustling community. As the pioneer of the enclosed shopping center concept in Indiana, this mall has been an emblem of the city’s commercial progress since its doors opened on October 31, 1963.
The early chapters of Washington Square Mall’s story were shaped by Erie Investments, who crafted a shopping space anchored by two significant tenants: Sears and an A&P supermarket. In 1969, the Louisville-based Stewart Dry Goods joined the duo, fortifying the mall’s standing as a regional shopping powerhouse.
Throughout the years, the mall has served as a backdrop to the lives of Evansville residents, hosting countless shopping trips, holiday festivities, and community gatherings. It’s a place where memories were made, the past met the present, and the spirit of Evansville indeed came alive.
The Winds of Change: Rising Competition and Transformation
In 1982, the landscape changed with the arrival of Eastland Mall. The new, more extensive shopping center posed a considerable challenge for Washington Square Mall.
To stay in the game, significant remodeling and expansion were undertaken in 1987, giving the mall a much-needed facelift and an edge to compete with its newer rival.
Despite these efforts, the 1990s and early 2000s were challenging times for Washington Square Mall. Major anchor stores closed, and the bustling business scene slowly shifted toward Eastland Mall.
However, in a testament to its resilience, Washington Square Mall did not fade into oblivion. Instead, it was purchased by a New York-based real estate developer in November 2016, rebranded as Washington Square, and set on a new trajectory towards reinvention and revival.
Embracing the Community: The Transformation of Washington Square
In its new chapter, Washington Square Mall has been morphing into a space that aligns more closely with the community’s evolving needs. Two local non-profits, Goodwill Industries, and Evansville Rescue Mission, have moved into the mall, adding social value to the commercial space.
Goodwill Industries has taken over the space once occupied by Sears, transforming it into a multifunctional area that houses its corporate office, thrift store, processing area, and drive-thru drop-off site.
The Evansville Rescue Mission has also found a home at Washington Square, consolidating its thrift store operations at the mall’s former Fashion Bug storefront.
These new additions, coupled with the continued presence of small businesses, offices, and a popular nightlife spot, KC’s Timeout Lounge, have turned Washington Square Mall into a hub of community activity and social interaction.
Not Just a Mall: A Social and Community Center
The transformation of Washington Square Mall goes beyond its role as a shopping center. Today, it is a vibrant hub for diverse community activities and events. On any given weekend, you can find a Farmers Market teeming with local vendors and food trucks, a platform for the local agricultural community to showcase their produce and products.
Car enthusiasts gather for the Cars n’ Coffee Car Show, showcasing a spectacular array of vehicles while sharing their passion with like-minded individuals. Health and wellness enthusiasts are drawn to the Evansville Holistic Expo, a gathering that promotes holistic healing practices in the Tri-State area.
Collectors and hobbyists also find a home at the mall during the 3-day Card Show, a delightful event where modern, vintage, and bargain boxes are traded and appreciated.
Washington Square Mall has become more than just a commercial space; it’s a vibrant venue fostering community spirit and bringing people together.
More Than Just A Shopping Mall: The Future of Washington Square
As Washington Square Mall continues to evolve, it stands as a symbol of resilience and adaptability, a testament to the ever-changing needs of its community. With a rich history and a promising future, Washington Square Mall is poised to continue its journey as a beloved institution in Evansville, Indiana.
While it may have seen changes in retail trends and shifts in consumer behavior, the mall continues to stay relevant by transforming its spaces and services to meet the community’s evolving needs. It’s a place where the city’s past, present, and future converge and an area that continues to foster a sense of belonging among its visitors.
The ongoing transformation at Washington Square Mall is a shining example of how brick-and-mortar retail spaces can reinvent themselves in the face of challenges.
Washington Square has breathed new life into the traditional mall concept by focusing on community engagement, providing spaces for non-profits, hosting diverse events, and attracting unique vendors.
In the coming years, Washington Square is expected to continue its metamorphosis, further embedding itself into the fabric of Evansville’s community life. Plans are underway to revamp the mall’s exterior, signaling continued investment in the property and promising an even more vibrant future for this Evansville landmark.
As we look to the future, it’s clear that Washington Square Mall isn’t just a shopping mall but a cornerstone of the Evansville community. It’s a place that has stood the test of time, adapted to the changing landscape, and will continue to serve as a hub for community life and engagement for many years.