An old Fountain Square church to become Indy's second hostel

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- A touch of Europe is coming to an overnight stay spot in Fountain Square. The growing neighborhood will be home to Indy's second hostel.

The unique sleeping space is extremely popular overseas, especially for solo travelers looking for an inexpensive way to crash for a night. Hostels group people together in open sleeping quarters and promote social interaction between strangers. This one is being renovated inside the Grove Haus, which is an old church turned event space.

“As much of the church, at least exterior wise, that can stay is really important, and the sanctuary becoming a social space," said project architect Brian Burtch with Neon Architecture, “Churches are difficult and expensive to renovate.”

Grove Haus is owned by Mark and Carrie Ortwein, but they sold the building to a couple from Denver who are moving to Indy and looking to invest here.

Burtch's office is across the street from the church, but he also lives in the area. He says Fountain Square lacks a major hotel but is flush with Air BNB opportunities. Perhaps this is the happy medium.

“I would wager to guess we have more Air BNB's in this neighborhood than any other neighborhood in the city," said Burtch, "The hostel is much more about shared bedroom spaces. It's sort of the coworking culture in the hotel environment. A lot of people stay in hostels for the opportunity to meet other people who stay in them."

The combination of open-concept sleeping arrangements and social interaction creates a challenge for architects. How to strike the right balance? With Indy wanting to become a convention city, this type of affordable sleeping option is prime, especially for a convention like Gen Con.

“At the end of the convention they just retreat back to the hostel, they hang out in the social space, and continue the game playing and whatnot at the hostel itself," Burtch described.

With a growing array of restaurants, shops, and music spaces, Fountain Square becomes their playground, while visitors still have easy access to downtown. Mike Angel owns the coffee shop and record store Square Cat Vinyl. Over the last year, he has seen the business grow by 20% as Fountain Square has boomed. A hostel would only increase foot traffic. When Angel opened the store, he told the landlord, the area was prime for a hostel, but he didn't have the capital to make it happen. It didn't stop him from trying though.

“Two years ago there was a house in Fletcher Place, and I met with the owner of Indy Hostel in Broad Ripple to try and get him to move a hostel down here,” Angel said.

Burtch says construction should start this Spring, and they hope to have it completed by the end of the year.

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