With a name like “Spaghetti Works District,” a fancy new downtown development has to have at least a few restaurants in it.
Definitely, says Brad Saville, the president and CEO of Landmark Commercial Real Estate, who is finding restaurant and retail tenants for the new $23 million “live, work, play” development scheduled to open in the fall of 2019.
The project, which is taking shape behind a fence in the 600 block of East Douglas, will include the redevelopment of Naftzger Park, which closed in May. The old Spaghetti Works building, which was built in 1894, will be home not to restaurants but to 41 new luxury apartments.
But the project also will include a 60,000-square-foot office and retail complex at the east edge of the park, where the Martin Pringle law firm will move its headquarters, and that’s the part of the development that should excite restaurant fans. When it’s all complete, Saville said, the new complex should hold between four and five new restaurants.
“The law firm is taking the second floor, and we definitely envision several restaurants on that lower level,” Saville said.
But what will those restaurants be?
Saville said he envisions a mix of national chains and regional restaurants and is considering both fast-casual and sit-down places. He’s been meeting with people who represent different concepts for the past six months and said he plans to begin announcing the restaurants’ identities by the end of the year.
One restauranteur — Max Sheets, owner of the rapidly expanding chicken chain Chick N Max — has already announced his intentions to open a downtown restaurant in the Spaghetti Works District.
Recently, a poll was posted on the Spaghetti Works District Facebook page that asked people to say what other restaurants they’d like to see in the new development if they could “wave a magic wand.” The post now has more than 250 comments.
Saville said he liked reading the comments, which gave him an idea of what people are craving downtown.
“Some of them are ones we were definitely already talking to, and some of them are ones we weren’t,” he said. “And some of them are places we could never get in Wichita.”
People most frequently said they wanted (of course) a Cheesecake Factory, but they also named other well-known chains, including Zaxby’s, Joe’s Crab Shack, Dave & Busters, Houston’s, Saltgrass Steak House — even Whataburger.
Others said they’d like a fondue restaurant, a rooftop bar or a British pub.
Several suggested that, since the name was already there and all, why not put in an Italian place called Spaghetti Works? (The developers plan to leave the name painted in the building, even though Spaghetti Works left the space 14 years ago.)
Many people said they’d also like to see a downtown grocery store, specifically a Trader Joe’s. But there won’t be space for grocery store in this particular project, Saville said.
He does want to bring in a salon and a variety of other retail businesses that downtown Wichita doesn’t already have, he said.
But restaurants will be a big component of the new development.
“Things have just changed so much the last year or two with all the apartments coming up downtown,” he said. “And with such a huge increase of people wanting to live downtown, we’re going to need some new restaurants and dining options.”