Six businesses in Fountain Square Theatre Building sold to wedding venue operator

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Fountain Square Theatre Building
The Fountain Square Theatre Building opened at the corner of Prospect and Shelby streets in 1928. (IBJ file photo)

The owners of wedding venue The Sanctuary on Penn purchased six businesses in the Fountain Square Theatre Building this week, with plans to increase activity in an event center that hosted vaudeville entertainment and screened movies in the 20th century.

Moller Enterprises, a company owned by Pike High School alumni Roger Reeves and Mark Smith, bought the theater operations from Linton Calvert, whom Reeves described as “the godfather of the revitalization of Fountain Square.”

Calvert sold the 70,000-square-foot building to Chicago-based North Park Ventures LLC in 2017 after owning it for nearly 25 years, but he and his wife, Fern, maintained their business ventures in the building.

The 2017 sale was reportedly a $6 million transaction, or 10 times the $600,000 Calvert paid in 1993 for the then-vacant structure at the corner of Prospect and Shelby streets.

Beginning with a building that was “all rats and pigeons,” in Reeves’ words, Calvert revitalized the theater and opened the only duckpin bowling alleys in the Midwest.

“There’s almost nothing in that building that he didn’t touch,” Reeves said of Calvert. “He’s invested, so I think it’s important to him to find the right investor.”

Reeves declined to disclose what Moller Enterprises paid for the six businesses:

  • Fountain Square Theatre
  • Action and Atomic Duckpin Bowling
  • Fountainview Inn
  • Eight apartments
  • Imbibe Lobby Bar & Game Room
  • Rooftop Garden & Lounge

The acquired businesses occupy 58,000 square feet of the 70,000-square-foot building. Calvert did not oversee a handful of the building’s tenants that are independently owned.

Moller purchased The Sanctuary on Penn, 702 N. Pennsylvania St., in 2021. This year, the venue has 74 events on its schedule.

Reeves said the Fountain Square Theatre hosts about 50 events per year, a number he would like to see increase substantially.

“We’re going to bring some of our wedding venue expertise from the Sanctuary, and we think we can do some pretty good things there,” Reeves said.

The six-story Fountain Square Theatre Building, which opened in 1928, is home to 11 boutique hotel rooms, known as the Fountainview Inn. Reeves said marketing dollars will be earmarked to raise awareness of the hotel.

“We don’t want to change anything they’re doing well,” he said. “But the hotel and theater venue aren’t performing well.”

Reeves said he and Smith asked North Park Ventures to add two five-year extensions to Calvert’s existing 10-year lease for the businesses.

“We’re betting a little bit on the upside of Fountain Square to continue to blossom,” Reeves said. “We certainly recognize the challenges associated with the pandemic. If things get goofy again, we could be back to where we were in 2020. That being said, we’re pretty bullish on the opportunity.”

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7 thoughts on “Six businesses in Fountain Square Theatre Building sold to wedding venue operator

  1. Hopefully this continues. I saw the theater portion of the building back in 93 and it was BAD. A man that owned a design business in the Fountain Square Building (Don Kelly) had always loved the building ever since working there as a young kid in the 1940s. He was a pin spotter. They didn’t have automatic spotters in those days. He introduced me to Mr. Calvert. I remember him telling us everything he had planned for the building back then.
    The City owes Mr. Calvert a lot. I have clients clear out in California that heard of the Fountain Square Building.

    1. The city owes him for being a responsible building owner? Oh how low our expectations are.

    2. Well, Murray, criticism is cheap. Please tell us how much of your wealth, expertise, and reputation you’ve risked in a neighborhood that had been abandoned and left for dead by everyone else.

  2. Well, you would know about being cheap and having low expectations.

    Quite a bit, actually. Even in this very neighborhood and Fletcher Place. But go on as if you actually know a thing or two.

  3. Hopefully he can keep the ball rolling. Very few people know there are hotel rooms. Last I checked they were very pricey for why I assume are very dated rooms. Imbibe has some good momentum. Rooftop is a hidden gem but has legendary service issues and they appear to open whenever they feel like it. The theatre is cool but the challenge has to be parking. How do you tell 250 wedding guests to park god knows where? Maybe take the redline

  4. Fountain Square needs an injection of life. Something big. I think they’ve rest on their laurels since blowing up a decade ago. Now they have to compete with Mass Ave and the Bottleworks complex. Hopefully they do something big!