A recently retired CEO of a local company has bought a vacant but historic brick building next to Circle Centre mall and plans to attract another restaurant to the location.
Jeff Laskowski led Wood-Mizer Products Inc., a west-side portable saw mill manufacturer started by his father and a partner, for about 10 years before departing Jan.1.
Converting ownership of the company to workers under an employee stock ownership plan, or ESOP, enabled Laskowski, 58, to cash out and acquire the building, which is at 14 W. Maryland St.
The Speedway native, who lives in Lizton with his wife, said he paid $3 million, or $150 per square foot, for the 20,000-square-foot building that was home to the 14 West Restaurant and Suites until the end of 2012. Laskowski said he will invest another $500,000 in the property in hopes of luring another eatery to the location.
The couple ultimately plans to live in the top two floors of the four-story building, outfitted with suites and a large penthouse, while generating income from a restaurant that would lease the first and second levels, as well as the basement.
“I’m hoping one of these national chains wants a building with character that seats a lot of people,” Laskowski said. “This is a prime spot.”
Constructed in 1876, the distinctive building with arched window openings was known as Elliott’s Block and was home to Indiana News Co. after serving as a warehouse annex for L.S. Ayres Co.
An extensive renovation in 1999 transformed the space into an upscale restaurant known as Malibu on Maryland with hotel suites. Local investor Richard Coombes, who led the revamp, sold it to Carter M. Fortune.
The business had been a passion project for the local businessman and philanthropist, who died at age 70 in August 2012. Fortune was chairman of locally based Fortune Industries, a publicly traded company before undergoing a restructuring.
Laskowski bought the building from a Fortune family trust. The sale included all the restaurant equipment left in the building and even dishes and silverware. Tables were set, as if 14 West were expecting customers, when it abruptly closed.
“It was a little on the spooky side,” Laskowski recalled about his first walk-through of the building. “They left everything.”
Under Fortune’s ownership, he sealed a large opening between the first and second levels of the restaurant that allowed patrons to look below, and he converted the upper floor to private banquet areas. The move restricted seating to only about 65 on the ground level.
Laskowski plans to reopen the area and build a mezzanine level between the floors, with a staircase, in addition to reducing bar space to about half the size now. The moves will increase occupancy to nearly 300.
By increasing seating, he hopes to attract a national restaurant chain. It’s possible, but a regional player might make more sense, said Gary Perel, a retail broker at Newmark Knight Frank Halakar.
“It’s a great restaurant location, especially with what Simon’s doing across the street,” he said. “I could see some nationals taking a look at it, but I would guess it’s more of a regional play. Not a lot of nationals have a vertical model in place.”
Simon Property Group Inc., the manager of Circle Centre mall, is in the process of backfilling space left by the vacancy of anchor Nordstrom adjacent to Laskowski’s building.
IBJ reported early this month that Bobby’s Burger Palace, a chain developed by celebrity chef Bobby Flay, along with beer-focused Yard House and Bonefish Grill are in discussions with Simon to open restaurants in the former Nordstrom space.
Each floor of of Laskowski's building, including the basement, is about 4,000 square feet. The two upper floors include updated hotel suites and a large penthouse that served as a Super Bowl home base for a large corporation.
Laskowski, who holds a bachelor’s degree and MBA from Indiana University, plans to rent the rooms for the next year, or until the renovation is complete and a restaurant tenant is signed. Long term, he plans to connect the top two floors with a spiral staircase and make the space their home.
If all else fails and he’s unable to attract a restaurant, he jokingly told his wife that “we’ll make this the biggest house in Indianapolis.”
Janice Paine of Colliers International was the listing agent on the building.