Leaders discuss downtown development in the wake of two restaurant closures

From WCTV.tv

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) — The Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce held a Professional Women’s Forum on Tuesday, discussing the city’s downtown development.

According to Downtown Improvement Authority CEO Elizabeth Emmanuel, statistics show people are moving downtown to live.

She said the area is on the right track.

The Farmer’s Market has helped small businesses get started in a low risk environment, and the Summer Concert Series has been extended into the month of November.

Brenda Francis, a commercial real estate broker, spoke about construction projects at the forum.

“We see a lot of dirt moving right now, and people call me and say, what’s being built there, what’s going there,” said Francis.

Francis writes a column in the Tallahassee Democrat, and she also sends out a newsletter regarding construction and development projects.

She spoke about projects on North Monroe, possibilities for the Northwood Centre, The Centre of Tallahassee, the Canopy mixed-use development and expansions in different areas of the Tallahassee Memorial Hospital and the Capital Regional Medical Center.

Another speaker, Lindsey Magura, is the Vice President of Development for North American Properties, and has worked extensively on the Cascades project.

“I’m going to share our latest renderings and videos so that really we can get the word out to the community doing what we said we were going to do, and it’s beginning,” said Magura.

Her PowerPoint slides estimate the construction impact at about $289 million of economic output.

Parts of the Cascades project are breaking ground this week.

Despite the positive movement and construction downtown, the Downtown Ramen Bar and the Deck Pizza Pub both closed their doors in the last two weeks.

“It had a great niche market with the ramen, it was a really really good place to eat,” said DIA CEO Elizabeth Emmanuel.

The Downtown Ramen Bar posted on Facebook saying, “Sadly, DownTown Ramen Bar has closed its doors today. We will not be re-opening. We would like to thank all our wonderful employees for their efforts and of course our patrons and friends for coming to see us these last few months.”

The owners of the Deck Pizza Pub continue to operate the busy downtown Metro Deli.

“There’s just a big drop-off after the legislature leaves every year,” said John Henningsen, the owner of Goodie’s Eatery. “The restaurants and the businesses really have to put their thinking caps on to do what they can do to make sure they can be here the following year.”

Goodie’s Eatery has been open since 1987, and focuses on breakfast and lunch.

Henningsen said 80% of his customers are regulars, many downtown office workers.

“Evening business can do fine downtown, I just think it’s going to be very dependent on, are the hotels full?” said Henningsen.

Goodie’s Eatery is open Monday through Friday, Henningsen saying it is not worth it for the business to open on weekends.

“We have to try to do it in 5 days, and when the legislature leaves, that 5 days really turns into 3 or 4 days,” said Henningsen.

Despite the struggles, Henningsen is thankful for his business.

“We have the best customers in the world.”

The Downtown Improvement Authority is stressing the importance of collaboration for downtown businesses.

“If these restaurants are planning events, let’s ensure everyone knows, so we have a better system to support and encourage and inform our residents of what we are offering downtown,” said Emmanuel.

The DIA will also be meeting with downtown businesses, restaurants, and hotels, speaking with elected officials about how to be proactive during what is believed to be a slow time of year.