New owner pursues retail for long-vacant Fountain Square building

After two false starts, a long-vacant storefront along Virginia Avenue in Fountain Square is undergoing renovations as its new owner attempts to fill the space with a retail tenant.

Mindaugas Balcius, whose North Hill Realty bought the building at 1044 Virginia Ave. last July for $650,000, told IBJ he is negotiating with a potential user for the 4,970-square-foot space.

Balcius declined to disclose the identity of the prospective tenant with whom he is negotiating or the status of those talks.

“Right now we are remodeling [and] rehabbing the space to make it into a retail location,” he said, adding he hopes the building will be occupied by “late spring, early summer.” The building is in the heart of Fountain Square directly across the street from the Murphy Art Center, which houses several restaurants, art galleries and the HI-FI Indy music venue.

The previous owner of the 1044 building, John Tuttle, bought it in 2018 and was granted a parking variance by the Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission in December 2018 as part of an effort to turn it into a small special event center and theater, which would have had less than 100 seats.

Balcius scrapped that plan when he bought the building, which has been empty since an antique store that had operated there for more than a decade closed in 2015.

In 2016, Fountain Square residents and merchants pushed back against plans for a new restaurant and bar in the space called Fountain Tap, out of fear it could negatively alter the neighborhood’s atmosphere and character.

“We’re very open to the continued development of the commercial district,” said Kris Bowers, president of the Fountain Square Neighborhood Association, about the possibility of a new tenant for the building. “It’s nice to get empty space filled.”

Balcius has a track record in the neighborhood. His company owns a 1,300-square-foot structure immediately north of 1044 that houses Bovaconti Coffee—and formerly Bovaconti Jewelers, which closed in mid-2018. He is a partner in the coffee business with Justin Jones, who owns Georgia Street Grind downtown.

Balcius owns several other properties in Fountain Square, including 950, 1024, 1028, 1031, 1034 and 1056 Virginia Avenue, 1336 Shelby St. and 1501 Prospect St. While some of those properties are occupied—City Dogs Grocery and Fountain Square Vintage and Novelty are among the tenants—Balcius said he is continuing to market the rest with “the goal of attracting more retail to the corridor and to make it more appealing and walkable.”

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