ANDERSON – Almost two years after purchasing the Mounds Mall, Mark Squillante is hopeful to reopen the Anderson landmark by the end of 2022.

The Mounds Mall was closed permanently by the Cook family in April 2018. Squillante purchased the mall at tax sale in October 2019.

“We have already put about $350,000 into the project just to maintain the property,” he said. “I’m not sorry we bought it.

“I’m disappointed the mall hasn’t opened, but the world has changed since then,” Squillante said referring to the pandemic. “If we could have opened in the beginning of 2020 we had an investor that would have gotten the project moving forward.”

Project manager Richard Petty said the project is moving ahead as he oversaw the work of removing carpeting in the theater and main walkways of the mall.

There are still two legal issues to be resolved with the Cook family.

The Cook family removed the seating and projection equipment from the theater, and there are still some legal issues involving the land where the parking lots are located.

Squillante said the cost for the theater to reopen is estimated at $2.1 million.

“Our team is putting together a full project scope of what we’re going to try and accomplish here,” Squillante said. “We’re going to approach the Anderson City Council and mayor for some assistance to get this project moving.”

The entire project is carrying a potential price tag of up to $9.7 million, to include $900,000 for art installations.

Squillante said once completed it will be a place for local residents to enjoy themselves as well as bring outside money into the community.

The plan is to convert the mall into an event and entertainment center and Squillante remains committed to bringing in new business owners.

“The food court concept is to have small businesses that can’t afford a standalone location have space in the mall,” Squillante said.

He said the Sears building will be used for conventions and in the winter there will be a children’s playground, miniature golf and a climbing wall.

Squillante said on weekends there could be musical entertainment.

“It won’t take as long to open as a full remodel,” he said. “We’re going to try and maintain what is here, repurpose everything we can.”

Squillante said the movie theater would probably open before the rest of the mall.

The goal is to encourage entrepreneurs to open small businesses in the mall with a focus on local and regional retailers.

“For the first two years we will be giving out lots of rent abatements,” Squillante said. “So we won’t be making a lot of money.

“I’m not doing this to make money,” he said. “I want to leave something that is my mark in the world. This is something that will be near and dear to the citizens.”

Squillante said there is interest from people looking to rent space, but the project has not reached that point at this time.

Follow Ken de la Bastide on Twitter @KendelaBastide, or call 765-640-4863.

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Senior Reporter covering Anderson and Madison County government, politics and auto racing for The Herald Bulletin. Has been working as a journalist in central Indiana since 1977.