GREENFIELD — For four years, Eric Spicer has been chasing the vision for new life at Greenfield’s Center Street Shoppes, and it appears he might have finally caught up with it.
Spicer, who purchased the property from his father, Bill, in 2011, has been slowly refurbishing the property that was once a bustling colony of shops two blocks south of Main Street at the western edge of downtown. However, not much has happened there since 2005.
The loss of some key tenants and Bill’s retirement delivered a body blow to the enterprise, and it has only recently started to recover.
“He had a vision for it,” said Eric Spicer’s wife, Kris, one day this week after the family spent another day readying for an anticipated August opening.
With over seven years of dormancy hanging from the eaves, Kris said early on the vision was a bit hard to see.
“I thought he was kind of crazy,” she said with a laugh. “I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.”
Perseverance, paint and a healthy dose of elbow grease began to get the 12-building complex into shape, and in September, Spicer struck a deal with Greenfield’s Dale E. Kuhn American Legion Post 119 to move into one of the buildings. It was a mutually beneficial move: The Legion had lost its headquarters to foreclosure.
Leasing space to the American Legion catapulted the enterprise forward and was a win-win for all involved, Spicer said.
“We had a five-year plan, and we’re running ahead of schedule,” he said.
In the near future, the property will debut a multi-tap craft beer cafe with a patio area, and an American-menu restaurant with the off-center moniker of Uncle Monkey’s from New Castle slated to open in September.
A variety of live music is scheduled from blues to jazz “on the deck,” Spicer said – the whole package designed to be a family-friendly destination alternative to Indianapolis.
“We’re trying to create the right atmosphere for people to enjoy a nice evening out,” he said.
As the business incubates and develops, the Spicers hope to capitalize on the Pennsy Trail, which runs past the property. They envision a bicycle shop with rental and storage; ice cream parlors; and other establishments that highlight the local market.
The Spicers aren’t the only ones hoping for good things for the Center Street Shoppes. Just down the Pennsy Trail to the east, downtown merchants could trade traffic with an extended business hub.
“It’s a very quaint and unique location, and I think they are doing some great things there. On behalf of Greenfield Main Street, I’m excited about it,” said Shelley Swift, Greenfield Main Street program manager.
A new commerce center just west of the core business area could serve to extend the historic downtown district, creating some synergy for both areas with the Pennsy Trail acting as a link, Swift said.
“These things can be a kickstart for Greenfield to begin drawing people not only locally but from all around the area,” Swift said. “It fits right into our goals.”
“It’s a wonderful gathering spot,” said Greenfield Planning Director Joanie Fitzwater. “I’m very excited they’re moving forward.”
With a summer sunset casting the property in an amber glow, the vision is becoming a bit clearer, even for Kris.
“This will be the only outdoor venue in Greenfield,” she said. “It’s a nice atmosphere, and it really looks nice out here.”