Commentary and conversations about life in Richmond, Indiana

Community Life

37 uses for the Elder-Beerman building

You’ve got 103,000 square feet of empty retail space? I’ve got ideas:

  1. Computer server data center
  2. Children’s museum
  3. Indoor market and food court for artisan growers, chefs, brewers, etc.
  4. Paintball, anyone?
  5. Tourism/visitor center
  6. Convention center
  7. Artist colony
  8. Entertainment complex (pool tables, video games, movie theater, escape rooms)
  9. Community center and public gathering space
  10. Retail incubator
  11. Hotel
  12. Tear it down and make it a park
  13. Day care center
  14. Warehouse and fulfillment center
  15. Grocery store and general store
  16. New space for Morrisson-Reeves Library
  17. Small-scale manufacturing incubator
  18. After-school youth center
  19. Nudist colony
  20. Tool and equipment co-op
  21. Luxury downtown condominiums
  22. Athletic complex
  23. The Globe Midwest: all Shakespeare, all the time
  24. An actual co-working space
  25. So much yoga
  26. Jazz museum
  27. Showroom for Wayne County-made products and services
  28. Temporary housing and food service for those in need
  29. Consolidated social services complex
  30. Archery range
  31. DIY auto repair garage
  32. New home for Richmond Civic Theatre
  33. Vocational training center
  34. The NEW new Reid
  35. Ice and roller skating center
  36. Concert venue
  37. A constant reminder

Some of these ideas are serious and realistic, some aren’t. It’s fun to consider the possibilities.

In the end, I’m not sure Richmond needs a hundred thousand square feet of anything right now. It seems like the people and projects that are thriving are working on smaller scale. A “mixed use” label is probably inevitable.

And let’s be careful; the worst thing we could do is pursue a vanity project for someone who talks up grand plans but ultimately just wants to make their mark on the city, leaving future generations to clean up after them.

Any use that’s going to succeed long term will strategically take into consideration the wide range of opportunities, challenges and obstacles facing our community. It will look at the rapidly changing global economy and the coming waves of automation. It will bring something to Richmond that makes us stand out in the region, perhaps in the nation.  It will probably be a little bit uncomfortable, a little bit wacky, a little bit ahead of its time.

If we can’t figure out what that thing is right now, that’s okay. Find the funds for basic upkeep, make sure it doesn’t detract from other downtown efforts, and then wait until clarity comes.

Hopefully in twenty years we’ll look back at it and think, “it sure was sad that Elder-Beerman closed, but thank goodness we got so creative and turned the building into such a wonderful resource that benefits the people who live here.

What do YOU think should happen to the Elder-Beerman building?


  1. Thomas Woolum

    I think it should be a Children’s Museum. So, Richmond, Indiana can start growing again and stop shrinking. So, they can bring Target back to Richmond, Indiana a little bit which will be SuperTarget after that. 🙂

  2. Katie

    I love the idea of a children’s museum – Richmond needs to draw in people from outside the region and a museum might be the ticket for that. I don’t want to see “luxury” condos – it’s hard enough to find affordable, decent quality apartments in this city without tacking on a huge price tag. A data center isn’t a bad idea. I wouldn’t mind turning it into a shelter. But I really want to see more local businesses in the end, something to bring color and verve back into the city. It’s a tragedy that we’ve lost so much in the last year, with Veach’s probably the most visible example. I’d love a good local grocer open after 6 PM so I can actually shop there. I’d love another store like the Village Forager, a fun, funky, fresh place with things you won’t find outside of Indy. I really, deeply, truly want a first-run bookstore and record shop – I drive over an hour to buy books and music these days (I don’t shop Amazon) and music and books sweeten life in ways nothing else can.

    • Comment by post author

      Thanks, Katie. I agree there should be affordable housing for everyone before we optimize for luxury. But I also wonder if having more residents downtown with significant disposable income would help draw more retailers and services that would be appealing to a wide range of residents and visitors.

  3. Pat Heiny

    In a recent conversation about the importance of early childhood experiences, it was suggested that we need a services ‘HUB’ that makes these organizations more accessible, especially given the transportation challenge. While I understand how that would be a great use for the building, I am also stuck on an important, practical question: How can we balance the need to generate property tax while meeting human needs??????

  4. A data center would be great. Meihua Technologies is not yet equipped for such an undertaking, but that could be a great option.

    I think it would be cool to turn the Elder-Beerman and The Underground Hotel into huge teenage/young adult attractions. Nightclub, barcade, paintball, go karts, karaoke, laser tag, escape rooms as mentioned, maybe a pool on top – talk about bringing some fun to Richmond!

    A Children’s museum would also be great, especially if it’s anything like CoSi or Boonshoft in Ohio – tons of fun for the kids, and a learning experience as well.

  5. Daniel Arthur

    I love the idea of an indoor market – almost like a permanent year-round space for the farmers market! It would be a great space for local vendors and artisans who want to sell their goods to the public and can’t afford to buy or rent an entire storefront. Vendors could simply rent smaller spaces inside the market. This would also help smaller businesses grow and develop community relationships!

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