Business Update in the Center City

One of the oldest restaurants downtown, Arby’s abruptly announced its closing, December 2010

After featuring some changes happening in the Old City yesterday, it seems only right to follow up a bit with what’s happening up the hill. In the previous post I mentioned the fact that Nama is moving to the spot beside the Regal Cinemas and that’s probably the biggest news on Gay Street. The other news in the last few weeks was of a more negative nature: Arby’s closed. I’ll confess to never having eaten there and apparently I’m not alone. Still, it was the only old-fashioned fast food downtown and it seemed to have its place. I suspect if I worked downtown, rather than living here, I would appreciate a place to snag a fast and cheap meal at lunchtime. It’s getting harder to do that downtown. It occupied a prime location at the corner of Union and Gay and I imagine someone will grab it in short order.

Ice Skating Rink dematerializes, Market Square, January 2011

There are a few other projects percolating in the area that seem to warrant an update. Even as the ice skating rink is being dismantled, plans are being made for new businesses.

Just Ripe seems a long way from ripening, Daylight Building, January 2010

The new year should bring openings of Blue Coast Burrito on the northwest corner of Market Square and Just Ripe in the Daylight building. Both seem to be moving very slowly. While the exterior of the building appears ready to go at 37 Market Square, the interior still has a gravel floor. It seems a long way from opening. Just Ripe seems closer, but still a long way from having shelves stocked. It seems to have slowed so much that the hoped-for December opening, which turned to a possible January opening, may become a February opening. I was hoping it would help take the sting out of the seasonal loss of the farmer’s market, but it appears it may open as anticipation is building for this spring’s market.

Hotel Saint Oliver, January 2011
One of the major business stories being followed downtown is the purchase, closure and renovation of the Hotel Saint Oliver in the Kern building at 1 Market Square. I assume the goal is to go from shabby-elegant to more elegant. The new proprietors indicated they want to have more of a presence for the hotel on the Square. I’m not sure how they can accomplish this without removing the Market Square Kitchen, which seems to be a popular breakfast and lunch destination. I haven’t heard any mention of removing the restaurant, but I don’t see how the hotel is a factor on the square, other than the rooms that overlook it, unless they do so. Stay tuned on that.

There are also vacancies awaiting a commitment from an entrepreneur. Just a few doors down from the Kern Building is the now vacant former-home of Abode. I strongly hope we get another retail store selling useful items to downtown residents and not another restaurant. I think downtown can still support additional restaurants if they are different from the current offerings, but I certainly don’t think that is our greatest need, right now. Also vacant is office space immediately west of the Kern Building on Union Avenue. Further out Union Avenue is the Daylight Building, home of Just Ripe, mentioned above. It also has vacancies in a very nice spot just a couple of blocks off Market Square nestled in among Just Ripe, John Black Photography and the Happy Envelope.

2011 promises to be a busy new year for downtown as change seems to be the only constant. Change is one of the most exciting elements to urban living. Something new always arrives, something old disappears and is mourned and, most predictably, there will always be a surprise just around the next corner.