Argyle on Mass Ave changes hands-WEB ONLY


An iconic pie-shaped building on Massachusetts Avenue downtown has a new owner nearly three years after the property first went on the market.

Larry Browning of Shelbyville-based Evergreen Investment Corp. purchased the historic three-story Argyle on Mass Ave building at the corner of East Street and Massachusetts Avenue for $3.2 million.

He plans to spend between $200,000 and $300,000 over the next five years to upgrade the mixed-use property, which contains 17,787 square feet of retail space on the basement and first floors and 36 mostly one-bedroom apartments on the upper levels.

“It won’t be dramatic,” he said, “but there will be lots of little areas where we’re going to spend some money on just gradually improving the property.”

The sale ends months of speculation on the 98-year-old building. It first went on the market Jan. 25, 2006, and numerous parties expressed interest, said Kim Wise of Tikijian Associates, which brokered the deal.

But the seller, local businessman Tony Wishart, didn’t want to budge on the $3.5 million listing price. He had owned the building since 1983 and said he was in no hurry to unload the property.

“When we put it on the market, all the way up to the day we sold, we were making substantial cash flow,” Wishart said. “We didn’t need to sell at all … we were quite comfortable, so we put a high number on it just to see what happened.”

Browning first looked at purchasing the building a year and a half ago but thought the list price was too steep.

As time went on, “we just got tired,” Wishart said, which led him to accept a lower price.

“We were just ready to move on, we couldn’t put any more improvements into the building,” he said. “It was just ready for someone else to take it to the next level.”

For Browning, that means making small improvements throughout the property.

He wants to replace the carpeting in the hallways, for instance, install new kitchen cabinets in the apartment units and spruce up the outdoor courtyard with some fresh landscaping.

A key priority will be finding a tenant or two to occupy the 6,000 square feet of vacant space in the building’s basement. One section of the exposed-brick space formerly housed winery Gaia Wines, and Browning said he’d like to find a similar tenant to host wine tastings or other events.

The rest of the building remains fully occupied. The ground-floor retail space is home to Mediterranean restaurant Aesop’s Tables, caterer Boun Gusto Unique Events, hair salon Michael’s on Mass and local retailers Interior Life and The Stamp Shop.

The upstairs apartment units, which rent from $550 to $700 a month, also rarely have vacancies, Browning said.

Evergreen typically buys properties for between $2.5 million and $10 million that it can add value to through subtle improvements. Most of its holdings are in and around Shelbyville and in suburban Indianapolis.

Browning said the Argyle appealed to him because it was well maintained, in a prime location and built with an interesting architectural style.

The triangular shape helps, too, Wise said.

“It’s shaped like a piece of pie,” she said. “How could you not think it’s neat?”

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