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La Grande Orange founder opening spot in downtown Phoenix

[Source: Howard Seftel, Arizona Republic] — The downtown Phoenix restaurant scene has been speeding down the runway for the past couple of years.  Now, it looks like it may achieve lift-off.  Bob Lynn, founder and president of the wildly successful La Grande Orange restaurant group (LGO Hospitality), has just signed on to open a restaurant at the new CityScape development by the end of 2010.  It will be called LGO Public House, a 3000-square foot gastro pub featuring updated American fare, including dips, salads, fish and burgers.  There will also be a substantial beverage component, with craft beers, California and Oregon wines and cocktails.

Why downtown Phoenix?  Lynn says that, “Phoenix is a world-class city, and I believe in downtown.”  Why CityScape?  Lynn is impressed with its “big vision” and its “great energy and vibe.”  The development, which expects to eventually gather 15 restaurants in its 100,000 square feet of restaurant space, is bordered by First Street and First Avenue, between Washington and Jefferson Streets.  CityScape spokesman Jay Thorne says the development pursued LGO because it fit the “exact profile for a perfect tenant” – “unique and local.”

And why a gastro pub?  Lynn says it’s based on his happy childhood memories of a Chicago pub called Hogans, a place where his whole family would gather.  “A stiff bourbon for Mom, a beer for Dad and food for five kids,” he fondly recalls.

He anticipates a mostly professional and business clientele for lunch at LGO Public House – CityScape has attracted several law firm tenants, and Arizona State University’s downtown campus is just a short walk away.  At dinner, the target demographic is “everyone,” from pre- and post-downtown event diners to nearby residents.  (The restaurant plans to stay open until 1 a.m.)  After LGO Public House gets its lunch and dinner act together, Lynn says breakfast will also be part of mix.  [Note: Read the full article at La Grande Orange founder opening spot in downtown Phoenix.]

Ambitious dining projects headed for downtown Phoenix

[Source: Howard Seftel, Arizona Republic] — Call them the ’09ers: The downtown Phoenix restaurant gold rush is not only picking up steam, it’s turning into a stampede.   Despite the dismal economy, pioneering restaurant owners believe there’s a mother lode waiting to be tapped in this mostly unexploited territory.   Two ambitious, multirestaurant projects are scheduled to debut later this year.

Cowboy Ciao chef Bernie Kantak heads one team, partnering with three of his managers and another high-profile Valley chef, who does not want his name made public because he has not yet given notice.  It’s a five-concept complex, all in one building, just a few minutes’ walk from downtown event venues.  (Because lease negotiations haven’t been finalized, the partners do not want the exact address released.)  One restaurant will showcase “creative American comfort food with a global twist,” Kantak said.  The restaurant’s bar menu, however, will focus exclusively on Southern favorites, like barbecue and fried chicken.

Two rooftop restaurants (with patios overlooking downtown) are also part of the mix.  One will be an Italian-themed steakhouse, spotlighting beef, chops, seafood, homemade pastas and wood-fired pizzas.  The other focuses on Latin America, featuring big and small plates from Mexico to Chile, a ceviche bar and Latin cocktails and wines.  Also planned is a cocktail lounge/wine bar, tucked away in the basement.  There you’ll be able to nosh on charcuterie, cheeses, desserts and chocolate.  Kantak hopes to open all five doors sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Also joining the downtown gold rush is Matt Carter, who heads the French kitchen at Zinc Bistro and the Latin American kitchen at the Mission, and two partners.  Now he’s taking another step toward global culinary domination with Nine05, a “modern Asian” restaurant that’s moving into the space that once housed Fate, on Fourth Street south of Roosevelt Street. And next door will be a gastropub called Canteen. [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Carter says Nine05 will focus on “greatest hits” Asian dishes, stamped with his own accent.  That means curries, Korean barbecue and a steamed pork belly brioche bun that he says is so good the Chinese will be kicking themselves for not having thought of it 2,000 years ago. He’s aiming to open Nine05 in July.  Canteen, meanwhile, will start off in July as a watering hole, with high-end classic cocktails, wines and beers, along with charcuterie and cheese to tamp down hunger pangs. By October, however, Carter expects Canteen to morph into a gastropub, with uncomplicated fare emphasizing simple preparations and fresh ingredients.  Heading the two kitchens is Jay Bogsinske, who worked with Carter before joining the La Grande Orange group.  Carter expects to be around a couple of mornings and late evenings to see how everything is working out.

Restoring pieces of Phoenix history (Republic editorial)

[Source: Arizona Republic, June 16, 2008] — Phoenix, a city once smitten with everything new, is now romancing its older sections as a way to preserve, beautify, and energize.  And this time, it’s not just talk.  That’s evidenced by a series of actions that implemented a plan to make “adaptive reuse” more common and easier to do.  The progress was promoted and bolstered by a vocal and surprisingly influential cadre of activist citizens and buoyed by a number of recent commercial successes across the city that are included within Small Wonders, Local First Arizona’s pocket-sized guide to shopping and dining in central Phoenix.

Don’t believe it?  Think that such innovative thinking, such a reverence for the past was more suited to Portland, Austin, or San Francisco?  Look again.  Better yet, check out the Downtown Voices Web site and scroll down to a June 9 entry that chronicles the success stories, the missed opportunities, and the great potential to redevelop older houses into restaurants and businesses, to transform industrial spaces and warehouses into studio apartments and art galleries.  It’s a video collection of Phoenix “treasures” that will inspire you — ones that you might even visit: Cibo, La Grande Orange, the Bentley galleries, Hotel Monroe, the Antique Store, and the Genesis charter school.

Even more significantly, city management and the Developmental Services Department officials seem to embrace the concept.  In recent years, we heard horror stories how code-enforcement, fire, and other regulators placed all kinds of requirements and roadblocks in the way of such developments.  But as if on cue, the market started rewarding those persistent entrepreneurs, now seen as visionary innovators.

The Phoenix City Council listened.  City staff took notice.  The community advocates, including Local First, Downtown Voices, and downtown artists echoed author Jane Jacobs’ counsel: “New ideas must use old buildings.”  City policies reflect the changing attitudes:

  • A second development code, The International Existing Building Code, geared for older buildings, offers some practical relief on renovations while maintaining public safety.
  • Creation of an Office of Customer Advocacy to help small businesses confused by the regulatory process.
  • Participation directly in the Downtown Artist Issues Task Force.
  • Appointed a 21-member Adaptive Reuse Task Force with representatives from the city manager’s office, the City Council and several city departments. The task force will develop comprehensive recommendations by this fall. It might borrow from successful policies used in Denver, San Diego, and Los Angeles.

This newfound interest down at City Hall about incorporating old buildings into new uses?  The adaptive reuse of existing space for new businesses?  It’s not just lip service.