Mass Ave property owner gets foothold on Virginia Avenue

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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.

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  1. I am not by any means judging whether this is a good or bad project. It's pretty simple, the developers are not showing a hardship or need for this economic incentive. It is a vacant field, the easiest for development, and the developer already has the money to invest $26 million for construction. If they can afford that, they can afford to pay property taxes just like the rest of the residents do. As well, an average of $15/hour is an absolute joke in terms of economic development. Get in high paying jobs and maybe there's a different story. But that's the problem with this ask, it is speculative and users are just not known.

  2. Shouldn't this be a museum

  3. I don't have a problem with higher taxes, since it is obvious that our city is not adequately funded. And Ballard doesn't want to admit it, but he has increased taxes indirectly by 1) selling assets and spending the money, 2) letting now private entities increase user fees which were previously capped, 3) by spending reserves, and 4) by heavy dependence on TIFs. At the end, these are all indirect tax increases since someone will eventually have to pay for them. It's mathematics. You put property tax caps ("tax cut"), but you don't cut expenditures (justifiably so), so you increase taxes indirectly.

  4. Marijuana is the safest natural drug grown. Addiction is never physical. Marijuana health benefits are far more reaching then synthesized drugs. Abbott, Lilly, and the thousands of others create poisons and label them as medication. There is no current manufactured drug on the market that does not pose immediate and long term threat to the human anatomy. Certainly the potency of marijuana has increased by hybrids and growing techniques. However, Alcohol has been proven to destroy more families, relationships, cause more deaths and injuries in addition to the damage done to the body. Many confrontations such as domestic violence and other crimes can be attributed to alcohol. The criminal activities and injustices that surround marijuana exists because it is illegal in much of the world. If legalized throughout the world you would see a dramatic decrease in such activities and a savings to many countries for legal prosecutions, incarceration etc in regards to marijuana. It indeed can create wealth for the government by collecting taxes, creating jobs, etc.... I personally do not partake. I do hope it is legalized throughout the world.

  5. Build the resevoir. If built this will provide jobs and a reason to visit Anderson. The city needs to do something to differentiate itself from other cities in the area. Kudos to people with vision that are backing this project.