By Jolene Ketzenberger
The Indianapolis artisan food scene will get a boost this year as a local investment firm creates a “food and beverage innovation hub” on East 16th Street.
Slane Capital, an Indy-based start-up studio, will redevelop the Tinker Flats building at 1101 E. 16th St. to create an incubator for artisan food businesses. Now an empty, three-story warehouse — with an adjacent one-story building — the approximately 30,000-square-foot Tinker Flats project will eventually house such businesses as a craft distillery, an artisan ice cream producer, a chocolatier and other food-related businesses.
Although Slane has invested in several technology start-ups in Indianapolis, Hays said, “our most successful projects have been in food innovation. We believe we can add a tremendous amount of value to entrepreneurs seeking to build food businesses.”
The project carries an estimated price tag of $3 million to $3.5 million. The City of Indianapolis is committing $1 million to the project, said Hays, who hopes to break ground on the project in April with the goal of having tenants in the building late this year.
The idea for a food innovation hub began to take shape more than a year ago, he said. “We started internally exploring the idea of creating a maker space in late 2012 with food innovation being a part of the space. We had Tinker Flats on our radar for a while, but the building was in contract to be purchased by another developer.”
When that deal fell through last September, he said, Slane moved on the building, which sits at the corner of 16th and Lewis streets, right alongside the Monon Trail and next to the Frank & Judy O’Bannon Soccer Park. “After Tinker Flats came back in play, due to size limitations and nearby resources, we thought [it] would be perfect for a food and beverage innovation hub.”
The building will offer space for light manufacturing of various craft foods and beverages, commercial kitchen space, a food research and development lab and meeting space. Nikki Sutton of Level Interior Architecture + Design will handle the redesign of the building, which includes multi-story machinery still in place. The property also features a courtyard; upper-floor windows offer a view of the downtown skyline.
The East 16th Street corridor may be ripe for a food-focused development such as Tinker Flats. Foundry Provisions, a coffee shop at 16th and Alabama streets, and the Thirsty Scholar, a pub and coffee shop at 16th and Pennsylvania streets, both opened last year. Restaurateur Peter George recently announced that he will open a restaurant — to be called Tinker Street, after the original name of 16th Street — nearby at 16th and New Jersey streets.
Hays said the artisan food focus of Tinker Flats will be good for the area. “Notwithstanding the coolness of the building,” said Hays, “we really saw the value in sparking a transformation of East 16th Street and the Martindale-Brightwood neighborhood.”