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$25M redevelopment anchors downtown’s North Mass Ave

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A big-time development involving tens of millions of dollars is opening adjacent to the Mass Ave cultural district.

People behind the project hope it’s only the beginning for North Mass Ave, an area east of the North Split of interstates 65 and 70. A century-old, dilapidated, box factory was transformed to house edgier office space and North Mass Boulder, billed as the largest bouldering gym in the country.

“This is a passion project,” said co-owner Elliott Steward.

North Mass Boulder is expected to open June 12. Steward said daily and monthly memberships will be available. Steward’s sign was being painted outside the building in large white letters on Thursday. He spent about a decade in Seattle and came back home to open and invest with his friends in the bouldering gym.

“This is such a unique building,” Steward said. “We will never find another building like this to do such a project.”

The project includes fitness and yoga spaces, and a cafe with a full-service kitchen and bar, all to create a community based on movement and fitness. It’s going in an area most may never have driven by, unless they’ve zoomed nearby on I-70.

“This is the perfect location honestly,” Steward said. “With all the investment going on in the North Mass district, this is exactly where we want to be. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else in the city.”

But, the bouldering gym is only one of the tenants in the 135,000-square-foot Box Factory building. The structure, first built in 1920 to house the U.S. Corrugated Box Co., eventually became Lacy Distributing or LDI.

The first other business to move in is Lewis Wagner, a midsize law firm, that will start unpacking its boxes Monday.

“We like to be trailblazers,” said attorney Lesley Pfleging. “So to be close to the Cultural Trail, close to the Monon (Trail), close to walking to Mass Ave is really exciting for us, and to still maintain the user experience.”

The Box Factory project has required more than $25 million of investment from Stenz Construction. Construction began about 18 months ago on the building, which had been empty for more than 20 years.

Stenz President Beau Ansty knows that most aren’t familiar with the area. “When they hear North Mass, they probably don’t know exactly where that is,” Ansty said.

But, people in the area believe that’s all about to change thanks to the recognition and success that the nearby Bottleworks project brought. It’s got a hotel and numerous restaurants and bars.

Ansty said, “We feel like this is the first project of many in this area.”

Everyone connected to the Box Factory believes the area itself will be transformed in another 5-10 years. “I think it’s going to be another hip area of town,” Pfleging said.

“I think it’s going to keep growing,” Steward added. “It’s going to look completely different with development.”

“We really feel like the epicenter of downtown is shifting out to the northeast along Mass Avenue,” Ansty said.

Ansty added there are four tenants so far in the Box Factory; they are leasing about 65% of the space. There’s still two floors that have not been leased yet. The Stenz president believes that won’t take long and future phases are likely.

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