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Developer buying Fountain Square building; museum lined up as tenant

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Architect and developer Craig Von Deylen said he hopes to close next week on the purchase of the Murphy Arts Center in Fountain Square. In the meantime, he's lining up new tenants, including the Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art.

Museum board Chairman Brandon Judkins said iMOCA will execute a lease for 2,000 square feet at the Murphy building, 1043 Virginia Ave., today or Monday. "It's a great move for us; it's a great move for the neighborhood," he said.

iMOCA will leave its current home at 340 N. Senate Ave. in time to open a new show at the Murphy building on Dec. 4 as part of the First Friday gallery walk, Judkins said.

The Murphy building is a 44,000-square-foot former five-and-dime store that houses two dozen or more artists' studios on the second floor. Von Deylen has anticipated the purchase from artists and businessmen Philip Campbell and Ed Funk since September. Von Deylen took over management at that time.

Von Deylen would not disclose the purchase price. He said that he's still trying to wrap up financing. 

The Murphy building's transformation into an artists' haven sparked renewed interest in Fountain Square in the late 1990s. Campbell and Funk bought the building from the not-for-profit Southeast Neighborhood Development for $413,000 in June 2001. Campbell and Funk could not be reached for comment.

Other retail tenants may soon fill the Murphy. A British-style pub called the Red Lion hopes to open by mid-month in a space formerly occupied by Gusto, a pizza restaurant. Von Deylen's wife, Jennifer Rice Von Deylen, opened the shop IndySwank in November. Von Deylen is also talking with two nightclub owners.

iMoCA decided to move to the Murphy building because it's already a destination for art-seekers, Judkins said.

The museum almost ran aground earlier this year. Executive Director Kathy Nagler left for a high-level fund-raising job at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Running out of money to pay salaries, the museum fired curator Christopher West and brought co-founder Jeremy Efroymson aboard to take Nagler's place. Efroymson is working for free.

The museum's current galleries on Senate Avenue are donated by the law firm Katz & Korin. Judkins said he thinks the museum can afford to take on the expense of a lease. He said the museum's finances have stabilized, and the rate Von Deylen is charging is "a reasonable-enough sum."

Moving to Fountain Square may also open doors to new sources of fund raising because iMOCA would play a role in reviving Fountain Square, he said.

iMoCA hopes to make its permanent home in another Von Deylen project, a $9-million, mixed-use development in nearby Fletcher Place. Von Deylen hopes to break ground on the project next year but has not lined up financing. 

Von Deylen would build 56 mostly one-bedroom apartments with ground-floor retail or offices at Virgina Avenue and McCarty Street. He also has agreed to allow iMOCA to occupy a 6,000 square-foot space on the second floor for free and is now calling the project the "iMOCA Building." The museum signed a letter of intent to occupy the space.

Von Deylen hopes to capitalize on the extension of the Cultural Trail. He said he wanted to bring in iMoCA as an ammenity for other tenants of the building. 

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