Mass Ave property owner gets foothold on Virginia Avenue

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

A downtown advocate who renovated and repopulated a commercial building on what was once a desolate stretch of Massachusetts Avenue hopes to do the same on Virginia Avenue, where he just closed on the purchase of three contiguous commercial buildings totaling 15,000 square feet.

Tom Battista bought the buildings at 647-659 Virginia Ave. Dec. 29. Battista wouldn’t reveal what he paid, but he said the group of buildings was initially listed for $500,000. The price dropped to about $350,000 last summer, said Bill Brennan, a broker with Lee & Associates who represented the seller. The seller was the family of Malcolm Boone, a dentist who had owned the buildings since the 1970s. Dr. Boone listed the property for sale in 2008. When he died last summer, his family lowered the price.

Brennan said Virginia Avenue, which is already home to numerous locally owned businesses, has plenty of potential. Selling property on the avenue is only a problem when the prices are too high, he said.  

The southeast leg of the Cultural Trail will pass directly in front of Battista’s newly acquired buildings, which are located where College Avenue intersects with Virginia. Being next to the trail will be a benefit in the long run, Battista said, but when construction of that leg of the trail starts this spring the disruption will be familiar.

Battista and his tenants in the Drey building in the 800 block of Massachusetts Avenue just lived through construction of the northeast leg of the trail, which is directly across the street from the Drey. The 10,000-square-foot building that Battista bought in 2000 is nearly full. Its tenants include R Bistro restaurant and The Mass Ave Wine Shop.

Battista hopes for similar success on Virginia Avenue. “It’s a very similar situation to the Drey. It’s old and hasn’t been updated but has a lot of great detail,” he said of the Virginia Avenue property.

The difference is that the Virginia Avenue property is three distinct buildings. They form a crude U shape. The side of the U farthest from downtown is a 5,600-square-foot building that houses a barber shop on the first floor. The barber, who Battista said “knows everyone” in the neighborhood, will stay. The second floor of that building will undergo extensive renovation and become a 2,900-square-foot apartment with two master suites. The bottom of the U is a 6,000-square-foot office/warehouse building that doesn’t front Virginia Avenue. It is occupied by tenants who will stay through the renovation.  

The side of the U closest to downtown is a 3,400-square-foot building that will be renovated to house an Italian bakery. The bakery will be run by Battista’s nephew, a resident of nearby Fountain Square who is a professional baker. Battista said he’s shopping for equipment for the bakery now, but that it won’t open until sometime next year. The bakery will open onto a courtyard space—the interior of the U—that fronts Virginia Avenue and will be visible from the Cultural Trail.


  • Italian Bakery in Italian Neighborhood
    I can smell the goodies already. Traditional italian Holy Rosary neighborhood is getting back to its roots with the same smell that poured out of all those italian mothers' kitchens so long ago!! We are so lucky. I know I'll be there every day.
  • YAY!
    An Italian bakery! I can't believe it - I have been hoping one would open since I moved here in 1970. Between this and the Container Store and the Lego store coming to down, what could be better?
  • Great!
    This is great news! Tom has a knack for two things. First he balances modern convenience and efficiency with historic preservation, and second he actively promotes and supports the entrepreneurs that call his buildings home. The folks of Fletcher place are fortunate to have Tom involved in their neighborhood!
  • Great News!
    It's exciting to see a local developer investing in this area. Tom has a great track record, and the neighborhood will be better for it.
  • Nice
    It sounds like some good investment along the trail. Glad to hear about the plans of reuse and always glad to hear about the trail spurring interest.

Post a comment to this story

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. Aaron is my fav!

  2. Let's see... $25M construction cost, they get $7.5M back from federal taxpayers, they're exempt from business property tax and use tax so that's about $2.5M PER YEAR they don't have to pay, permitting fees are cut in half for such projects, IPL will give them $4K under an incentive program, and under IPL's VFIT they'll be selling the power to IPL at 20 cents / kwh, nearly triple what a gas plant gets, about $6M / year for the 150-acre combined farms, and all of which is passed on to IPL customers. No jobs will be created either other than an handful of installers for a few weeks. Now here's the fun part...the panels (from CHINA) only cost about $5M on Alibaba, so where's the rest of the $25M going? Are they marking up the price to drive up the federal rebate? Indy Airport Solar Partners II LLC is owned by local firms Johnson-Melloh Solutions and Telemon Corp. They'll gross $6M / year in triple-rate power revenue, get another $12M next year from taxpayers for this new farm, on top of the $12M they got from taxpayers this year for the first farm, and have only laid out about $10-12M in materials plus installation labor for both farms combined, and $500K / year in annual land lease for both farms (est.). Over 15 years, that's over $70M net profit on a $12M investment, all from our wallets. What a boondoggle. It's time to wise up and give Thorium Energy your serious consideration. See http://energyfromthorium.com to learn more.

  3. Markus, I don't think a $2 Billion dollar surplus qualifies as saying we are out of money. Privatization does work. The government should only do what private industry can't or won't. What is proven is that any time the government tries to do something it costs more, comes in late and usually is lower quality.

  4. Some of the licenses that were added during Daniels' administration, such as requiring waiter/waitresses to be licensed to serve alcohol, are simply a way to generate revenue. At $35/server every 3 years, the state is generating millions of dollars on the backs of people who really need/want to work.

  5. I always giggle when I read comments from people complaining that a market is "too saturated" with one thing or another. What does that even mean? If someone is able to open and sustain a new business, whether you think there is room enough for them or not, more power to them. Personally, I love visiting as many of the new local breweries as possible. You do realize that most of these establishments include a dining component and therefore are pretty similar to restaurants, right? When was the last time I heard someone say "You know, I think we have too many locally owned restaurants"? Um, never...