Archive for Thursday, September 27, 2012

Town Talk: Milton’s founders to team up again to start new restaurant at Ninth and N.H.; work on hotel project may begin in November; hotel design tweaked: yo-yo masters in downtown on Sunday

September 27, 2012, 8:55 a.m. Updated September 27, 2012, 9:49 a.m.


Subscribe to the Town Talk email edition

Subscribe to the email edition of Town Talk and we'll deliver you the latest city news and notes every weekday at noon.

News and notes from around town:

• Of all the places in Lawrence that are likely to feel like a bigger city, the intersection of Ninth and New Hampshire may end up topping the list.

As has been well-documented and much discussed, within the next 12 to 18 months the intersection is likely to be home to three multistory buildings including an extended-stay Marriott hotel and downtown’s two largest apartment buildings. (I’d better clarify one of the three is already there, of course, with the 901 building. Trust me, I don’t want to set off another round of “discussion” about the future of that intersection.)

Well, it now appears the intersection will have a new restaurant that aims to play off that theme as well. David Lewis, a founder and operator of Milton’s, Sula Teller, a longtime Lawrence chef, and Billy Pilgrim, a Lawrence marketing executive and Teller’s husband, have signed a deal to locate a new restaurant in the bistro-style space on the ground floor of the 901 building.

In case you hadn’t noticed, there is a space containing about 1,200 square foot in the northwest corner of the building. The space, which is adjacent to The Summit fitness club, also has a large patio that will allow people to gaze upon Ninth Street and the intersection of Ninth and Mass.

The restaurant aims to be a real hub for the downtown neighborhood. Plans call for the restaurant to be open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., which means it will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner. And, yes, this is Lawrence, so rest assured the restaurant hasn’t forgotten about your whistle either. You’ll be able to wet it with craft beers and affordable wines that the group describes as everything from “unsung” to “adventuresome.” (I can see myself drinking wine in an Indiana Jones hat very soon. We’ll see about the whip.)

As for the menu, Pilgrim used the phrase “city cuisine” to describe it, but said he didn’t want people to be left with the impression that it would be haughty or full of unusual ingredients. In fact, part of it will be very simple, as in an old-fashioned to-go case. Pilgrim said the to-go cases are common in many downtown cities so that workers can grab a well-prepared meal to take back to the office.

“There are really not that many places where you can just gather and go in downtown Lawrence,” Pilgrim said.

Teller — who was a founder of Milton’s with Lewis and then went on to gain a following as a pastry chef with the former downtown restaurant Prairie Fire — said the menu will be seasonal and will work to use as many local ingredients as possible.

Plans call for the new restaurant to open by the end of November. But first, the group needs to come up with a name for the restaurant. Pilgrim said that should be decided soon. The group currently is finalizing the design of the space, which they describe as having a classic, Euro, neighborhood feel (which I think means an Indiana Jones hat will work fine.)

• The 901 building is owned by a group led by Lawrence businessman Doug Compton. I saw Compton at lunch recently, and he told me the tentative plans are for construction to begin on the new multi-story hotel building at the southeast corner of Ninth and New Hampshire in November. He said work on the recently approved seven-story, 121-unit apartment building at the northeast corner of the intersection could begin in March.

“It is going to get busy down there,” Compton said.

That is probably a good description for all of downtown. I still expect construction on the expanded Lawrence Public Library, or at least the parking garage portion of the project, to begin before the end of the year. In fact, I think city commissioners will begin formally requesting bids for some of the early parts of the project as soon as next week.

With Compton’s two projects and the library, I’m guessing there will be around $60 million worth of construction work underway in downtown Lawrence at one time. (Don’t forget, Treanor Architects already is underway with a project to build its new headquarters near 11th and Vermont.) I’m not sure there’s ever been a time when so much construction has happened at once in downtown.

There will be at least one more interesting development to watch at the Ninth and New Hampshire intersection. The hotel project includes what will be downtown’s first rooftop restaurant. No word yet on what type of restaurant that may end up attracting.

UPDATE: This just in, the planned hotel building at the southeast corner of Ninth and New Hampshire no longer is planned to have a rooftop restaurant. The development group this morning forwarded me a letter it recently sent to City Hall detailing several changes they are making in the final design of the project. None of the changes will alter the height or size of the building in any way. Here's a summary of the proposed changes:

— The top floor of the hotel now will house three condo units instead of the rooftop restaurant.

— The hotel building no longer will include any apartments,and as such the number of hotel rooms will increase from 81 units to 92 units.

— The rooftop pool of the hotel will be moved to an enclosed area on the first floor.

— Since the main floor lobby no longer will need to accommodate an entrance to rooftop restaurant, the developers are proposing to expand the ground floor retail space by 400 square feet.

The letter also notes that the 121-unit, seven-story apartment building on the northeast corner is being designed with a rooftop pool to serve those residents.

I don't believe any of the design changes will require approvals from city commissioners or the Planning Commission. I'll believe they'll be considered minor enough changes that they can be approved administratively. If hear different, I'll pass it along.

The changes should be popular with downtown leaders, who I believe would rather see more people living in downtown rather than another restaurant.

• With all that construction in downtown, your head may be going back and forth. Well, you’ll have a chance this weekend to get it in practice at The Toy Store in Downtown Lawrence.

The professional yo-yo team with Duncan yo-yo will be providing demonstrations from noon to 2 p.m. Sunday at The Toy Store, 936 Mass.

I saw the group the last time it was in town, and it was jaw-dropping. (Which ended up being not so good. I think I busted two teeth and three windows trying to replicate the tricks later that day.)

The Duncan team travels all over the country providing demonstrations and instruction.

• That will be a wrap for Town Talk this week. I’ll be off Friday and Monday to practice yo-yo tricks that involve an Indiana Jones hat, a whip and a bottle of wine.


somebodynew 5 years, 9 months ago

Chad - here is hoping that you keep the correct order in that practice session. It could be very dangerous to mix it up.

msezdsit 5 years, 9 months ago

“There are really not that many places where you can just gather and go in downtown Lawrence,” Pilgrim said.

That is just a laughable comment. How is one more restaurant, a 1200 sq footer at that, going to finally give lawrence "a place you can just gather and go ........ Only a marketing exec could come up with a sales pitch with no pitch.

MarcoPogo 5 years, 9 months ago

The bus stop and the dumpster behind the thrift store.

irvan moore 5 years, 9 months ago

if they want people living downtown why are they moving the homeless shelter out of downtown

pizzapete 5 years, 9 months ago

I'm surprised this new restaurant concept, with veteran restaurateurs, hasn't learned the lesson that a breakfast, lunch, and dinner combo doesn't work well in a small city like Lawrence. I remember Milton's used to be open from morning till night as well, turning into a late night wine bar with live jazz music when it first opened. It didn't work, so they stopped being open late into the night and focused on breakfast and lunch instead. Many poorly planned downtown restaurants have a life span of about two years. There's a reason successful restaurants have a narrow focus of serving lunch and dinner or breakfast and lunch in our city. They don't try to be all things to all people. But hey, I'm a big fan of Milton's, so I hope they prove me wrong and buck the two years and done trend that has closed so many other recently opened downtown eateries.

MarcoPogo 5 years, 9 months ago

Out of curiosity, what failed downtown three-meal restaurants are you thinking of? The last one that comes to mind is Jester's but I'm sure there are others. I'm just stumped on the more recent examples.

Bob Forer 5 years, 9 months ago

The Paradise was doing fine until the original owners sold out to an incompetent guy who ran the place into the ground in less than a year.

pizzapete 5 years, 9 months ago

Actually, I can't think of many places that have successfully offered breakfast, lunch, and dinner in Lawrence with the exception of IHOP, Perkins, and Paradise Cafe. As far as downtown restaurants, there aren't many that have even tried being open so many hours at a time. Jester's was one, there was a French Bistro (forget the name) on New Hampshire, the new Fuzzy's Tacos I believe backed off the idea of offering breakfast, and Milton's stopped being open late, too. I'm not trying to say that offering three meals is why downtown eateries have failed, I think that's more of an issue of both over saturation and high rents . I just think that being open so many hours and offering so many different dishes is going to be more difficult to orchestrate than a simple breakfast/lunch or lunch/dinner concept. But, like I said, I hope they're able to pull it off. The new hotel and apartments should give them an extra boost.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 9 months ago

I think Ingredient recently expanded to include breakfast, making the transition to all three meals. They also split the space into a dining area and a bar area. I think.

MarcoPogo 5 years, 9 months ago

I don't remember the bistro on NH, though there was the Nouvelle Tasty Shoppe right around where India Palace is. No clue if they went for three meals or not. Do you recall whether Tin Pan Alley ever attempted breakfast?

gccs14r 5 years, 9 months ago

Tha'd be whet your whistle, not wet.

Sarah St. John 5 years, 9 months ago

I believe "wet" is correct in this context. Were you perhaps thinking of "whet your appetite?"

George_Braziller 5 years, 9 months ago

There's a restaurant where I won't be eating. I have a three strikes rule for a restaurant. Three bad experiences with food or service and I cross it off the list of places where I'll eat.

Milton's is near the top of the list.

blindrabbit 5 years, 9 months ago

I think The Mirth just recently went from 3 meals to 2, skipping the evening!

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 8 months ago

Wheatfields is open from 6 am till 8 pm every day except Sunday.

Anne Tangeman 5 years, 8 months ago

If we'd like to considered ourselves a city, we should not be put off by 'unusual ingredients' - that's certainly relative anyway. I hope they are more creative than burger and fries and pizza. This town is made of many palates as evidenced by the increase in great restaurants over the past few years.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.