Massachusetts Avenue has been so good to local restaurateur Mike Cunningham that he’s planning to open a third eatery in the trendy downtown Indianapolis neighborhood.
Cunningham, 50, launched the upscale Mesh in 2010 and the casual Bru Burger Bar the following year. He now is planning a concept he describes as a “new American diner” for a building just a few blocks from Mass Ave.
The Cincinnati native, who heads the 11-restaurant Cunningham Restaurant Group, has signed a letter of intent to buy the brick, one-story structure at 620 N. East St.
The building, which was constructed in 1950, is listed for $995,000 by McClure Commercial & Industrial Real Estate. It is owned and occupied by the Bricklayers Masons & Tile Setters Union, which would relocate.
Cunningham declined to divulge the sale price for the property, which includes 50 parking spaces.
If all goes as planned, Cunningham will have the as-yet-unnamed restaurant open in October.
“It’s a new concept for us,” he said. “We like Mass Ave; we have two restaurants down here, and they do really well.”
Steve Delaney, a restaurant expert at the locally based Sitehawk Real Estate brokerage, is confident Cunningham’s new creation would be as successful as his other endeavors.
“Mike, as a restaurateur, is one of the more successful operators in Indianapolis,” he said. “He chooses very good locations, and they’re well run.”
The menu would consist of what Cunningham calls American comfort food priced from $6 to $20 but prepared with a “chef’s upgrade."
Completing the purchase of the 6,800-square-foot building hinges on Cunningham's securing rezoning and a variance allowing the sale of alcohol. The variance is necessary because the building sits within 100 feet of a church.
The Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission is scheduled to consider Cunningham's plans April 3.
Cunningham's restaurant empire began in the suburbs, but he's become such a believer in the downtown area that his company this month relocated its nine- person headquarters from Avon to Fulton Street, just east of the Mass Ave corridor. He spent $1 million renovating the vacant building for Cunningham Restaurant Group's offices.
Cunningham said the central location offered easier access to the company's restaurants. Cunningham Restaurant Group is occupying 6,400 square feet on the first foor that used to house a printing ink factory. The building’s second-story is being redeveloped into a condominium.
Cunningham Restaurant Group has four Stone Creek Dining restaurants in the Indianapolis area—in Greenwood, Noblesville, Plainfield and Zionsville—and two in the Cincinnati area. The company also operates a Boulder Creek Dining Co. in Brownsburg, a Charbonos in Avon, and a Moerlein Lager House in Cincinnati in partnership with the Christian Moerlein Brewing Co.
The company plans to open a Bru in Lexington, Ky.,, this year and a Mesh in Cincinnati in 2014.