Greenwood entrepreneur turning Franklin church into commercial venue

Inspired by a recent burst of commercial activity in downtown Franklin, a Greenwood real estate investor has purchased a former church and is renovating it for commercial use.

Derrick Christy bought First Baptist Church of Franklin’s building at 201 E. Jefferson St. in October for $185,000, according to the official Indiana real estate sales disclosure form. He’s renamed the property Church on Jefferson.

Built in 1885, the building totals 21,786 square feet spread over two stories and a basement. It is on the east side of downtown Franklin, between the courthouse square and Franklin College.

First Baptist’s pastor, Homer Ford, said his congregation decided to sell the building because it “it no longer met our ministry needs, and that’s probably been true for the last 30 years.” The building lacks on-site parking, Ford said, and it offers limited accessibility to those with physical disabilities.

The congregation is currently holding its worship services at Franklin College.

In January, Christy began renovating the church property for possible use as a restaurant, an events center or some combination of both, and is pursuing a three-way liquor license.

He said he’s fielded multiple queries from interested parties but hasn’t yet decided who to lease to and is open to leasing the facility to either a single tenant or multiple tenants.

“We’re not in a rush right now,” Christy told IBJ. “We just want the highest and best use for the property—and, more than anything, the right operator.”

Renovations are aimed at updating the building without destroying its unique characteristics, including its stained-glass windows, 30-foot ceilings and woodwork. “We’ll keep the grandeur of the church but certainly bring in more modern appointments,” Christy said.

Christy is an entrepreneur with a background in multiple industries, including real estate, property management, finance and insurance. He’s handling the Church on Jefferson project through one of those entities, the property management company Horizon Property Group.

Horizon manages more than 300,000 square feet of commercial retail and office space in Greenwood and Indianapolis.

The Franklin church was appealing, Christy said, because “Franklin is just a booming community. It’s very vibrant.” Indeed, downtown Franklin has seen a flurry of business openings within the past year.

— Most recently: Coffeehouse Five opened its second location Wednesday at 41 W. Monroe St. in downtown Franklin, in a 4,250-square-foot space formerly occupied by home furnishings store The Marshmallow Monkey.

— Coffeehouse Five describes itself as a “for-benefit” operation. Its proceeds fund free counseling, addiction recovery programs and other services. The husband-and-wife team of Brian and Michelle Peters opened their original Coffeehouse Five in 2014 at 323 Market Plaza in downtown Greenwood.

Old Towne Beer Hall & Growler Co. opened in November at 55 E. Court St. in downtown Franklin. It’s a self-pour beer hall that offers a rotating selection of 40 craft and domestic beers, along with 10 cocktails, five wines and a snack menu.

— And 10 Pins Franklin, a duckpin bowling facility that also offers a game room and beer/wine bar, opened in July at 27 W. Monroe St. Owner Pat Hagan bought the 10,000-square-foot building for $250,000 in January 2017, after long-time business Smallwood Appliances shut its doors.

Hagan told IBJ last year that he considered different uses for the building and decided on duckpin bowling because he thought downtown Franklin needed an activity-based business to complement its existing restaurants and historic Artcraft Theatre.

In other news this week:

— The restaurant/entertainment chain Dave & Buster’s is gearing up for its opening at Greenwood Park Mall on April 27. The company says the venue will employ more than 230 people, including managers, bartenders, hosts, cooks and game techs.

The Greenwood site will occupy 34,450 square feet that formerly housed a J.C. Penney Home Store. IBJ first reported on Dave & Buster’s Greenwood plans in May. This will be the second Indianapolis-area location for the Dallas-based chain, which opened in Castleton in 2009.

Jiffy Lube of Indiana has selected the artists who will paint murals at seven of the chain’s stores this year as part of its Every Part Matters public art project.

Artists, and the store locations where each will paint a mural, are as follows:

Joy Hernandez, 6401 N. College Ave. in Broad Ripple; Dan “Handskillz” Thompson, 355 N. Shadeland Ave.; Artur Silva and apprentice Shaunte Lewis, 840 E. 151st St. in Westfield; Neokoda “Koda” Witsken, 10390 N. Michigan Road; Carl Leck, 13855 Olivia Way in Fishers; Bryan Ballinger, 317 W. North St. in Kendallville, and; Alexandra Hall, 5312 South Bend Drive in Fort Wayne

The company’s owner, Steve Sanner, started the program in 2016, originally to cover up graffiti at one of his local stores. To date, 15 of Sanner’s 49 stores in Indianapolis, Carmel, Brownsburg and Lafayette feature murals. Decatur Central High School students are also creating a mural at a store near their school at 6322 W. Thompson Road.

VetIQ Petcare Wellness Center will have a grand opening Saturday for its new clinic inside the Meijer store at 6939 W. Broadway St. in McCordsville. It will be VetIQ’s first Central Indiana location. Its parent company is Idaho-based PetIQ, a fast-growing provider of veterinary products and services that operates clinics under the VetIQ, VIP Pet Care and Pet Vet Clinic names. IBJ first reported on the company’s plans in September.

— The discount department store chain Ross Dress for Less will open its newest Indianapolis store on Saturday at Linwood Square Shopping Center, located at the southwest corner of 10th Street and Linwood Avenue. It will be the Dublin, California-based chain’s 22nd Indiana store and its 1,561st overall.

— Appliance retailer Sears Outlet is combining with home furnishings retailer American Freight and rebranding all of their nearly 300 stores as American Freight Appliance, Furniture, Mattress. The stores will celebrate their new brand with “grand reopening” events beginning April 23.

Sears Outlet’s sole Indianapolis-area store is at 6022 Crawfordsville Road in Speedway. American Freight has three Indianapolis locations: at 5615 W. 38th St., 5750 Kopetsky Drive; off of Indiana 37 on the city’s south side; and 8920 Corporation Drive, off of I-69 on the city’s northeast side.

Both Sears Outlet and American Freight are owned by Virginia Beach, Virginia-based Franchise Group Inc. Franchise Group bought Hoffman Estates, Illinois-based Sears Outlet in October, and it acquired Dublin, Ohio-based American Freight last month. The Virginia-based company also owns a number of other retail chains, including Liberty Tax Service and The Vitamin Shoppe.

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