Friday, February 25, 2011

Calling all restaurateurs: River Market has three prime locations for you

Posted By on Fri, Feb 25, 2011 at 2:58 PM

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The old Merchant's Bank Building could become a boutique burger bar?

In this week's Cafe review of Hickok's Bar & Grill, owner Forbes Cross says he thinks that the River Market neighborhood is "on the edge of a real revival.... We just need a few more restaurants to come in and create a potent destination. The energy is already there."

So are three vacant spaces that Deb Churchill, property manager of the City Market, believes would be great locations for satellite operations of locally owned restaurant groups. Wouldn't it be great, she says, to have a version of Blanc Burgers + Bottles or Room 39 around the market district?

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Put something new in Oldham!
​Two of the three vacant River Market locations were previously restaurants -- The River Market Brewing Company at 500 Walnut (in a 1920s building called the Gillis Opera House, even though no opera has been performed in it) and, directly across the street, the ground floor of the former Oldham Hotel. Just north of the Oldham Hotel, in the dark brick Merchant's Bank Building, is the space formerly occupied by the Hong Vuong Market. It used to smell of the fresh fish sold there (including carp swimming around in plastic tubs), along with tea sets, colanders and paper lanterns.

Churchill says this building, owned by the City Market, has had quite a few showings to potential tenants since the landlords invested some money repairing the space. "It's been vacant for three years," Churchill says. "It was pretty much in shambles."

The ideal tenant for the ground floor, Churchill says, would be a restaurant. In fact, she thinks all three spaces would be ideal for local restaurants to anchor the neighborhood and join the new Hickok's Bar & Grill and such already-established venues as Bo Lings, Harry's Country Club, Winslow's BBQ and Minsky's Pizza as dining destinations.

"We'd love to see a Russell Stover's store down here," Churchill says.

Churchill doesn't see the nearby Power & Light District as competition for the River Market as a thriving dining destination. "The two areas are completely different," Churchill says. "The prices at the P&L restaurants are higher, and we have lots of free parking here."

The economy has stalled growth in the River Market, Churchill says. "We really felt the hit in 2010, but things are coming around. The restaurants that are actually in the market property are holding their own, and Bloom Bakery is a huge success. We'll have lines start forming at 4:30 a.m.!"

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