Wayne Ashford sat in his Fall Creek Place coffee shop-Tea's Me CafÃ© & Gifts-during a recent lunch hour waiting for customers to show up.
After six months in the neighborhood, he's been "a little disappointed" at the foot traffic through his business at the corner of 22nd and Talbott streets.
While the master-planned community has won accolades for its urban design, it has failed to generate revenue for smallbusiness owners like Ashford.
That may change in a hurry. Three sizeable commercial projects are about to radically change the makeup of the nowpredominantly residential community.
Residents are thrilled.
"We're very much in support of them," said Jennifer McGlone, president of the Fall Creek Place Neighborhood Association's board of directors. "[Residents] bought into the neighborhood expecting [retail] services to be around."
Together, the projects could add as much as 34,000 square feet of commercial space to the area 20 blocks north of downtown.
"We have developed enough critical mass that we're seeing a tipping point in that there's enough buyer income now that [Fall Creek Place] can support commercial elements," said Chris Palladino, director of neighborhood development and finance for Indianapolis-based Mansur Real Estate Services.
Palladino's company has broken ground on the Douglass Pointe Lofts: a nine-unit condominium development at 25th and Delaware streets. Each of the units will include as much as 1,000 square feet of ground-floor office space.
While the condos probably won't attract retailers interested in selling trinkets or candy bars, they'll likely draw white-collar professionals who want a storefront downstairs, such as attorneys or graphic designers.
Palladino hopes to finish construction within seven months.
Three blocks east at the former Tim and Avi's location, Larry Jones, owner of Teagen Investments III LLC, hopes to start digging the foundation of a four-story mixed-use development in June. He'd like to finish construction by next spring.
The finished building will have 13,200 square feet of retail space on the ground floor. He hopes a restaurant takes the first 3,200 square feet. The rest he'll either lease out as one huge space or slice up to accommodate as many as eight new retailers.
Twenty-six condominiums will occupy the top three levels of the building and sell for $160,000 to $700,000. Jones plans to use the cash from condo sales to lower the rents on the retail space.
"The goal is to be able to subsidize those first-floor units and get base rents down to around $12 per square foot," Jones said.
That's a smoking deal, commercial real estate agents say.
"I'm surprised he can do it," said Don Williams, a principal at the local office of St. Louis-based Colliers Turley Martin Tucker. "It's very difficult to deliver rents in the $16 to $18 range."
A little more than a half mile away at the corner of 22nd and Delaware, Mansur is working with the King Park Area Development Corp. to build 12,000 square feet of retail space. Mansur hopes to start construction as early as this spring and finish by fall. Potential tenants include a sandwich shop, restaurant and a pizzeria.
Palladino said rents would be a little higher than Jones is asking, but not much.
Brian Epstein, president of Indianapolis-based Urban Space Properties, said all the spaces could get snapped up quickly.
"It takes time for a neighborhood to stabilize," he said. "[Fall Creek Place] is at the point now where retailers will start taking a look at it."
If the projects are successful, other nearby retailers will take note.
Jay Berger is a partner in 22nd Street Realty, which owns the boarded-up building at 22nd Street and Central Avenue that housed a Safeway grocery store until November. If the new Fall Creek retail developments take off, he would consider razing the building to put up a similar mixed-use development.
The three new projects wouldn't have come together without help from the city, which chipped in more than $350,000 to get the sites ready for construction.
"We had to do some testing and cleanup of the sites," said Maury Plambeck, director of the city's Department of Metropolitan Development. "It we aren't willing to participate in that, it's hard for some retail or commercial [entities] to come into the inner city."
Ashford can't wait for some new neighbors.
"The more business that comes in the better," he said. "In the next year or two, [Fall Creek Place] is going to be a very booming area."