Most people wouldn’t appreciate being booted from their office of 15 years, but Chris Truran isn’t complaining.
Truran, regional maintenance supervisor of Tri-Land, which owns Southern Plaza, was “evicted” to make room for Oak Street Health, a primary care clinic for adults with Medicare.
“I don’t mind having to move to another part of the center. We don’t pay any rent,” he laughed, “so it’s nice to put someone in there.”
And with the health center and Rue21, a guys and girls fashion store, opening in the fall, things are looking bright for Southern Plaza, 4200 S. East St.
“Things are really happening. A big department store will open around the first of the year. Gilvin’s Boots & Shoes is now open, and many retailers are looking to rent space,” said Truran, who noted that the center’s popularity for tenants has been trending upward for the past year.
“With all the construction going on, it’s a challenge to keep the tenants, contractors and customers happy. But we are going a pretty good job a pacifying everyone.
Truran began to see an uptick in the demand for space when Eyeglass World opened last August. “That kind of kicked things off, and then we negotiated several deals.
“We are one of the most convenient shopping centers in the city. We are right off of I-465 and I-65, and the IMAX and AMC theater are here. We are the oldest shopping center on the Southside, and we have held our own. We continue to thrive.”
While Southern Plaza may never relive its heydays of the 1960s and ’70s, it remains a popular place for shoppers because of its varied merchants, which include Marshall’s, Harbor Freight, Kroger, El Azabache Mexican Restaurant, M&I Bank and Rent-A-Center. “And we even have Brightwood College and PJ’s Beauty School,” Truman boasted.
Adding to the center’s allure is a heartwarming Santa’s house and a car show, both of which were implemented by Truran.
Truman, who grew up in Beech Grove, remembers visiting Santa at the center when he was a child. That’s why he brought the jolly, bearded gent back.
This year’s show – open to all hot rods, customized, muscle and classic cars, trucks, specialty vehicles and motorcycles – is Saturday, Sept. 10. The cost is $15, and registration runs from 8-11 a.m.; all participants will be treated to breakfast from Bert & Den’s. Advance registration is available by calling 791-0420.
The car show is a great day for the plaza and a boon for the merchants, said Truran. “The additional traffic results in our stores enjoying extra sales. Many husbands and wives come to the show. The guys show their cars, and the women shop ... and sometimes that’s vice versa. I couldn’t do the show without all the help from the merchants.”
Built in 1961, the U-shaped center was originally anchored by J.C. Penney, Block’s, Woolworth’s, Kroger and Standard Supermarket. It was known for its sidewalk sales and being a hub for various activities, including the city’s first Oktoberfest in the early 1970s.
When Mel Simon & Associates constructed Greenwood Park Mall five miles south, J.C. Penny and many of the other fashion-oriented retailers moved to the mall. A number of small stores went out of business in the early 1980s.
When Tri-Land acquired Southern Plaza 1994, about 45 percent of the nearly 300,000-square-foot center was vacant, and the property was in fair to poor condition before being refurbished.
Since then the plaza has enjoyed a rebirth, and Truran has been along for the ride.