INDIANAPOLIS — Merchants inside the Lafayette Square Mall are being asked to sign new leases at higher rents in order to secure their places in the mall’s great renovation.

Many storefronts are quiet and shoppers are scarce inside Lafayette Square Mall though the property’s owner, Fabio de la Cruz, told FOX59 that by next spring, his $20 million renovation of the site at 38th Street and Lafayette Road will be bustling with new customers and merchants.

“I think that we will have a lot of tenants when we do the grand opening in April next year,” said De la Cruz, Principal of Sojos Capital. “At the end, if we do the things that we like to do, that’s gonna generate excitement and I have no doubt at the end of next year we’re gonna have a full thing complete.”

De la Cruz envisions skylights up above that will flood the renovated mall with sunlight, giving an outdoorsy feel to the property as the new design will leave shoppers with the impression of strolling through a neighborhood.

“They will see something totally different,” he said. “The only thing I can guarantee is you won’t see a mall like that, you’ve never seen a mall like this.”

Alijan at International Wireless said he had his doubts about the mall when he was first hired at the cell phone store.

“Before I come here, they actually said it was an abandoned mall. People don’t usually wanna come here and do shopping so they usually go to different malls.”

Alijan said in the year he’s been at Lafayette Square he’s come to recognize regular clientele.

“We got some customers coming in and hopefully in the future we will have more customers.”

Alijan and other merchants are banking on the multi-million-dollar makeover the developer is planning not only for the mall but for the entire Lafayette Square footprint which is planned to host a boutique hotel and townhouses and apartments for 700 residents which will add another $180 million to the redevelopment price tag.

“When I heard this mall was getting renovated, I was shocked and I said, ‘Absolutely we’re not gonna leave this place, not right now, because if this mall gets better it’s gonna help us in the future,’”

Between now and Lafayette Square’s anticipated Grand Re-Opening next spring will come some uncertain times for merchants who will find the entire mall closed between August 29th and November 21st for renovation.

Tenants will pay no rent between the start of the shutdown until March 1st of next year.

“We are giving an extra three free months of rent,” said De la Cruz. “On top of that, we are helping through that process in helping to have certain things businesses are lacking right such as expertise in social media, expertise in business, we will pay to change all the lightings inside the stores for efficient lighting.”

Besides LED lights throughout the interior and new flooring, the mall’s owner will also provide fiber internet and relocate some of the merchants to more appropriate spaces.

“We need to be sure we give the tenants an opportunity to stay,” said De la Cruz who began signing tenants to new and more expensive leases this week. “We rearrange where they are in smaller spaces and give them the opportunity to pay a little more than they are now and have some percentage that will go to us and then we have to prove we bring in more traffic for them to be successful.”

Ahsan Bhuiyan at H A Jewelers said often days go by without making a sale so he’s leery about paying a higher monthly rent.

“If it is six percent we could pay it, but if it is more than that, then it’s going to hurt us because there is no business now.”

Bhuiyan said he has no choice but to rely on the owner’s promises if he expects to stay in business.

“Everything depends on them, what they do to bring the people here. You say advertisement, tv, some other means to bring the people. It absolutely depends on them,” he said. “Of course, there will be more people, but the question is, how many years is it going to take? Do we wait five years? Or ten years?”

De la Cruz is aiming for the move-in of residential tenants in late 2023 and said he has signed an agreement with a major boutique hotel chain.