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by Allison Borgelt

It was October 31, 1963, and the 2,000-space parking lot was filling up fast.

The traffic was so thick at Washington Square Mall, according to a newspaper report from the time, that it was backed up all the way to St. Mary’s Hospital to the west and from Green River Road to Lincoln Avenue in Evansville.

People just couldn’t wait to get to the grand opening of the Sears in Washington Square Mall.

Washington Square Mall was a booming retail center when it opened in 1963, however in 2002 after other malls and retail stores were built in town the mall stood mostly empty. Over the last nine years Gene Hahn of Hahn Realty Group and Paul Kite, an Indianapolis -based real-esate developer have breathed new life into the once barren mall. They increased the occupancy from 35 percent to 93 percent, by leasing place to non retail driven businesses such as several doctors’ offices, a call center, and a theater group.

By 2002, Washington Square Mall was still open, but stood mostly empty. It still housed Sears and DEB, a teen clothing store, and “that’s pretty much it,” said Gene Hahn, president of Hahn Realty Corp., and co-owner of the mall.

After Hahn and Paul Kite, an Indianapolis-based real-estate developer, took over the mall in 2002, its occupancy increase from between 35 and 40 percent in 2002 to approximately 93 percent today, and its revenue grew by about 70 percent, Hahn said.

“We bought it on a wish and a hope,” he said.

Not all of the 536,510 square-foot mall’s occupants are stores; a number of them are offices.

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