INDIANAPOLIS —If you’ve ever visited downtown Indianapolis, chances are you’ve wandered onto Massachusetts Avenue. Whether for drinks, dinner or maybe some shoes, Mass Ave. is home to some of Indy’s most beloved businesses.
But it wasn’t always that way.
According to an RTV6 report from 1984, Mass Ave. was once regarded by some as a “skid row area” of downtown Indianapolis. Dozens of buildings were boarded up, and foot traffic was sparse.
But change was on the horizon.
In 1982, a seven-block stretch of Mass Ave. was recognized in the National Register of Historic Places, a distinction that made tax breaks available for businesses.
One business that capitalized on these tax breaks was Stout’s Footwear.
Stout's Footwear, established at 318 Massachusetts Avenue, is the oldest shoe store in the United States. Harry Stout and William Bristor founded the shoe store in 1886, originally named 'Harry Stout and Company.'
Channel 6 reporter, Gerry Dick, spoke with co-founder Harry Stout’s great-grandson, Brad Stout, about the Mass Ave. upswing in 1984.
“There’s been a dramatic change," he said. "Ten years ago, there were more indigents; there were a few undesirable bars in the area.”
The Mass Ave revitalization didn’t stop with Stout’s.
The Hammond Block, at 301 Massachusetts Avenue, received more than $500,000 in renovations. Redevelopment of the vacant Sears building was in the works, as well.
Developers announced plans to renovate the building in June 1985 and just a year later, a Joe O'Malia's grocery store opened on the first floor.
Further up Mass Ave., the transformation continues 'til this day.
The former Coca-Cola bottling plant at 850 Massachusetts Avenue is currently being redeveloped into the Bottleworks District, a $300 million mixed-use project that will have a boutique hotel, food hall and a market complex with a theater, homes, shops and office spaces.
The Coca-Cola plant built in 1931, left its Mass Ave home in 1964 after Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner, Tony Hulman, bought the franchise and moved bottling operations to Speedway.
In 1968, it was sold to Indianapolis Public Schools where the building was used as a central kitchen for school lunches, among other things.