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A look inside Neal Brown’s Midtown restaurant at the site of historic bank

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Property owners planning to turn an historic Indianapolis bank into a restaurant say they want the space to welcome everyone in the neighborhood and bridge the Midtown divide some know as 38th Street.

Bill Oesterle and Ed Sherman say it didn’t take much convincing to go in together on the old Indiana National Bank at Washington Blvd. and 38th Street, most recently a Chase Bank two years ago. After all, Oesterle says he’s passed by the building for years.

“I live two blocks north of here, and so I’ve been driving by this building for the last 20 years or so and it had been boarded up for a couple years,” Osterle said, standing inside in front of the bank’s old walk-in safe. “It was over the summer I walked up and looked at the sign on the door to see who owned it, and it sort of went from there.”

Oesterle and Sherman don’t just want to clean up the building, which they’ve done extensively since the purchase in August of 2017. After considering office space or an event hall, they decided a restaurant might be what the space, and the corridor needs for quality economic development.

“There’s nothing like a good restaurant to begin to revitalize an area,” said Oesterle. “I think 38th Street ought to be a grand corridor for Indianapolis. There’s no reason. It’s got so many assets.”

In head chef and restaurateur Neal Brown, known for restaurants like Pizzology, Libertine Liquor Bar, and Ukiuyo, the property owners say they believe they’ve found their guy.

“People love food,” said Brown. “There’s never been a greater interest in food than there is in Indianapolis right now I feel.”

Brown plans to call the restaurant “Midtown Brasserie” or just “Midtown Brass,” in case the french word for “public house” scares away some people. He says it won’t be as casual as a bistro, but it will serve a variety of purposes as a comfortable dining space.

“The last thing we want to do is make this a formal restaurant because we want to involve the neighborhood as much as possible. So this isn’t going to be necessarily a fancy restaurant, but it’s going to be excellent food, excellent quality food,” said Brown. “But also accessible to anyone that wants to enjoy it.”

So while they hope the old bank will bring the 38th Street corridor into the future, inside the owners have made sure time has stopped.

“We kept anything that was original,” said Sherman. “Anything that wasn’t original, we got rid of.”

Sherman gave 24-Hour News 8 a tour of the old bank, and said they’ve called in crews to shatter the tiled floors to reveal the original flooring. Through some historical research, Sherman says they’ve confirmed the thick glass windows are original, along with the telephone booth inside, all four bank safes, safety deposit boxes, and drive thru. Indiana National Bank was sixth in the nation to have a drive thru bank, says Sherman. While the chandelier ordered by the bank never made it to the facility, Sherman says they obtained chandeliers from the same era in the late art deco style, and installed them in the bank. He says his favorite moments are when people tour the bank and say they remember the chandeliers. To him, that’s a proof they’ve found a seamless match for the facility.

“They always say it’s a bad idea to be emotionally involved in any type of business transaction but I cant help but be,” said Sherman. “Sometimes when no one else is here I’ll have the lights shut off and just look at the space and how grand it is. Not that we did anything, we just polished it back up.”

Oesterle says to expect the restaurant to open within 5-6 months. Brown says “Midtown Brass” will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, a first for him, and will change moods as the day goes on. The team also plans to use the 5,000 square feet below the restaurant for special events and as a community space.

They’re also already working with potential partners to open a specialty market inside the space. They say they can’t wait for more businesses to follow.