Properties in play along Market Street

Four properties for sale along a two-block stretch of East Market Street downtown are likely to offer the first signs of what’s in store for an area real estate brokers think will get a boost from the recent removal of the Market Street interstate ramp.

The soaring ramp, erected in the early 1970s, was considered both a physical and psychological barrier to the redevelopment of properties in its shadow. The $22 million project to remove the ramp and improve the surrounding infrastructure wrapped up in late October when Market Street reopened between East and Cruse streets.

Cars and pedestrians now have access to the area for the first time since the project started in spring of 2008. Among the changes visitors will notice are broad sidewalks, historic streetlights, landscaping and the numerous for-sale signs that dot the two blocks between East Street and College Avenue. Here’s what’s for sale:

— The 29,000-square-foot Modern Photo Offset Supply building, 536 E. Market St. The three-story building, which is listed for $2.2 million, went on the market in the last 60 days.

— The 8,300-square-foot building formerly occupied by the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America Local 60, 531 E. Market. The building, listed for $698,000, went on the market not long after the advertising agency Meyer & Wallis bought it in early 2008.

— A 4,500-square-foot building owned and occupied by Circle City Pizza, 627 E. Market St. The asking price for the property, which went on the market in August, is $375,000.

— A 32-foot-by-105-foot vacant lot at the southwest corner of Market Street and Park Avenue that went on the market last year. The asking price for the site, owned by attorney Christopher Zoeller, is $200,000.

None of the efforts to sell the properties appear to be driven by the ramp-related improvements to the corridor, but brokers and owners associated with the properties think their listings will benefit.

Bart Book, the Colliers Turley Martin Tucker broker representing Modern Photo, said the improved surroundings should make his client’s building easier to sell.  Modern Photo, which had been a major supplier to Kodak, is looking for a smaller space because digital photography has dramatically altered its business.

Book said the bad economy makes new construction on East Market unlikely in the near term. “It’s going to be taking what’s there and improving it to a higher and better use,” said Book, who expects small office users and service providers to populate the area, which historically housed small industrial firms.

At least three law offices already have offices in the area, but the ad agency Meyer & Wallis, which had expected to move into 531 E. Market after buying it from the carpenters union last year, outgrew the space before its project started, said listing broker Rob Lukemeyer.

Lukemeyer, of Baseline Commercial Real Estate, said the ramp removal lured the agency to the area in the first place and is likely to attract the attention of other small professional firms in the near term. But he expects bigger things for the area, perhaps retail and residential, in a decade or two.

The ramp removal is one of three factors that will determine how the area ultimately develops, Lukemeyer said. Another is the future of the vacant Bank One Operations Center at the southwest corner of Market and East, where a $65 million plan recently approved by the city could result in the construction of retail space and hundreds of apartments . The other big factor is what type of development occurs on the Market Square Arena site another block to the west.

Katie Gray, the Summit Realty Group broker who listed 627 E. Market, said the property is for sale because the couple who owns Circle City Pizza and has owned the building for 20 years, is retiring.

Gray said the ramp removal and related improvements, and the proximity to the central business district only a few blocks away, make the future bright. “We think it will be a hot area in the next few years.”

Richard Brown, a partner at the law firm Brown Tompkins Lory & Mastrian at 608 E. Market, thinks Gray is right. He bought the building his firm occupies about eight years ago and owns a half-acre gravel lot at the southeast corner of Market and East.

“A commercial real estate broker told me not long ago I’m at the corner of Main & Main,” said Brown, who plans to hold onto his corner lot at least until the fate of the bank operations center becomes clear.   

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