Peru Mall will be renamed “The Crossroads at Peru,” a residential-commercial mix, and about half of it will be demolished to make room for free-standing buildings and apartments.
The Peru Planning/Zoning Commission approved GK Real Estate’s overall game plan, which includes multiple variances and rezoning petitions, but several hurdles await. The full Peru City Council has to vote on it, and construction wouldn’t begin until late spring 2021.
And City Engineer Eric Carls said he wants a redevelopment agreement “to ensure we’re going to have something at the end of the day and we’re not in a situation where we have a bait-and-switch.”
Representatives speaking on behalf of GK Real Estate said a redevelopment is forthcoming and GK will go all-in with $30 million at stake in the residential component alone.
Why a retail-commercial mix? Andy Patras, director of development management for GK, said the traditional enclosed model is dead and the internet is a big reason why. Hundreds of department stores have closed or soon will close — “Eventually, we don’t believe there will be a department store at all.” — and a window-less building in a “sea of asphalt” won’t attract retailers and restaurateurs.
“We understand a lot of nostalgic feelings people have for Peru Mall. It comes up a lot,” Patras said. “(But) they’re never going to revert back to their heydays when they were filled with people. It’s not going to come back.”
In its place will be reduced commercial space — the movie theater, for one, is staying — with four residential buildings, three stories high with 39 units apiece. Mary Riordan, an attorney for GK, said the apartments are one- and two-bedroom units and aren’t geared toward families with children.
“These are for empty nesters and younger professionals,” she said.
GK Real Estate plans a live-eat-work-play model where “everything is at your fingertips when you walk out the door,” Patras said.
Other proposed features are a new “ring road” that parallels Route 251 plus a series of out-lots accessible via Route 251. The property will undergo a great deal of landscaping.
“It’s not a pretty looking place,” Riordan said. “It needs a lot of work. The parking lots are decrepit. It’s going to take a lot of work and a lot of investment.”
Riordan noted GK wants to rezone the property as a whole in the same zoning category as surrounding parcels. The retail-housing mix should boost nearby property values.
Developers estimate they’ll need 10 months to get through the design and construction documents. Once permits are in hand, construction will take 16-17 months.