Irvington scores Ossip, set for streetscape project

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The Irvington retail trade area stands to get a big boost from two projects set to begin this fall: Ossip Optometry’s renovation of a historic building and a $2.9 million makeover of East Washington Street designed to make the business district a draw for pedestrians.

Ossip’s decision to locate its 15th area store in Irvington is expected to raise the retail profile of the historic, east-side neighborhood.

Ossip closed July 12 on the purchase of a freestanding building at 5606 E. Washington St. that housed an auto repair business until last year. The locally based eye-care chain will begin a complete rehab of the 3,800-square-foot structure this October and will occupy the space in the first quarter of next year.

The significance isn’t lost on those who have a stake in Irvington retail.

“To have a proven, successful local chain store move in there kind of validates the neighborhood,” said Bill Shank, who owns a 22,000-square-foot retail strip just east of the Ossip building.

“You could have rented it out to someone changing oil and brakes. I was scared to death that was going to happen. Ossip’s a classy operator,” said Shank, who bought the retail property three years ago. Shank’s tenants include Legend Classic Irvington Cafe, a restaurant that opened in 2003, and Jockamo Pizza, which opened in 2007.

Those independent restaurants and other local retailers that lease space from Shank will soon be joined by Black Acre Brewing Co., a small brewery and tasting room set to open by the end of the year in 2,200 square feet of space.

“Irvington has a nice sense of community,” said Justin Miller, one of five partners in Black Acre. Miller, 26, is starting the venture with his wife, a family friend and two law school classmates. Prompted by investors who are from the Irvington area, Miller said they’d been looking for a space there for about a year.

Among the properties they were drawn to was the 1892 building that Ossip just purchased. Ossip already had it under contract but had some obstacles to overcome before the recent closing.

Lack of access could have been a deal killer, said Jacque Haynes, a commercial broker with Cassidy Turley who represented Ossip. Layman Avenue, the residential street immediately west of the building, only runs south, meaning customers wouldn’t be able to turn north off of Washington to access the building’s 12 parking spaces.

“Layman being one way was detrimental to any retail development there,” said Haynes, who worked with community groups to build support for making Layman a two-way street. A proposal came before the City-County Council in April and was approved June 7.

Because Irvington is a city-designated historic district, Haynes also worked with the Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission to get approval for exterior renovations to the building. Those will include a restored brick and wood façade, new windows and black awnings. The west wall has been reserved for a mural representative of Irvington.

Haynes, who had not previously done a deal in Irvington, said she learned a lot about the neighborhood in the process. She compared the dense, diverse trade area to Broad Ripple, Beech Grove and Speedway. “It has a faithful following,” she said.

Ossip’s decision to open in Irvington follows last year’s big score: George Thomas Florist moved from 10th Street and Shadeland Avenue into what had been an appliance store at 5609 E. Washington.

Next up is the multimillion-dollar Washington Corridor Streetscape Project, which will give Washington Street a new look from Emerson Avenue east almost to Arlington Avenue.  

The neighborhood raised $253,000 toward the $1.6 million first phase, which is set to begin in October. The money came from large donors, such as PNC Bank, The Indianapolis Foundation and Citizens Energy, and from individuals and neighborhood groups.

Those funds will be added to more than $1 million provided by the federal government as part of its effort to restore the historic National Road, which is called Washington Street in Marion County.

The first phase will cover five blocks between Irvington and Bolton avenues, the stretch where Ossip is locating. It will include a landscaped median, walkways, decorative lighting and benches. It should be finished next spring.

The $1.3 million second phase is funded and will run from Emerson to Irvington Avenue, said Amandula Henry, executive director of the Irvington Development Organization, a not-for-profit founded in 2002 to encourage redevelopment of the neighborhood.

Henry said Keep Indianapolis Beautiful is donating all plantings for the project’s first phase.



    I hope the mayoral contenders in Greenwood are paying attention to the development model Irvington is providing as Greenwood’s sleepy downtown is just ripe for a classic restore, take-aways
    ---Jocamos (got that one)
    ---Tear down eye sores (broken window theory)
    ---Street car line (or at least some sort of horse and buggy style free transport to the Greenwood Mall)
    ---Destination like Broad Ripple (but for families)
    ---Streetscape (if at a minimum highway medium greenscape work like US52 and South St. in Lafayette)
    ---Upscale vendors like Ossip that will attract folks with money to spend on other products and services nearby

    And lastly, build on the memories of long time residents.
  • Welcome!
    George Thomas Florist is super excited!Welcome to Irvington!
  • Lovin' me some Irvington
    SO nice to see this kind of progress for an area that is so deserving. When I was growing up there was a Bridal Store, Shoe Store, Hobby shop, Ice Crem Shop (Oh Linders, how I miss thee!) and much more along East Washington Street. We may never go back to the days of Regal's Market and Peachers Drugs & Shearers Pharmacy, but Jocamos has proved that we can have things that are "truly Irvington" once again. HURRAY!!
  • Awesome!
    Great news for my neighborhood. Now can we PLEASE tear down the Indy East?
    • Cool
      Now how aboit a streetcar line that runs from Downtown to Cumberland?
    • Great!
      I think this is a great project to get Irvington on track to becoming a popular destination like Broad Ripple. I'd like to see this intise other businesses & neighborhoods within Irvington to begin fixing everything up! Hopefully they will continue the streetscape project in the future to continue east almost to Shadeland Ave. where Irvington actually begins.
    • Go for it!
      Include bio retention gardens for drainage!!!!
    • $$$
      You know you've arrived when you get an Ossip. It's not your run-of-the-mill crowd that can afford their services and products.

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