“I Wish This Was” is a semi-regular series that transforms ignored, vacant lots and properties in Orlando into something the City Beautiful can be proud of.
A prime, second-generation restaurant space in downtown Orlando has sat vacant for almost three years now, and it doesn’t look like it will be occupied any time soon. And there are a couple of reasons why that’s likely.
The 1,912 SF space is located in Orlando City Hall and features a fully-equipped kitchen, with a hood system, and includes all utilities. The problem is, it can only be open from 7:30 a.m.-3 p.m. on regular business days, which excludes evenings and weekends. It also doesn’t have any restrooms, and guests must make use of nearby facilities in City Hall or the nearby office towers. Click HERE for more information on the space care of the city’s Real Estate Department.
4 Rivers Smokehouse (Facebook | Website) was the most-recent tenant but closed in October 2020 after investing $300,000 into a renovation of the former family-run diner that used to operate there. A number of local businesses have shared that they have toured the space but just couldn’t make the numbers work with the reduced hours.
An incubator concept would work well here, one that was overseen by City Hall or a like-minded operator like the Valencia College Culinary Arts program or the still-in-the-works food hub concept from Bento. The space could host pop-ups along the lines of Camille upstairs at East End Market and feature up-and-coming local chefs testing out new concepts and menus or rotating food truck operators looking to try their hands at running a brick-and-mortar, that won’t necessarily be hobbled by the reduced operating hours.
It’s a shame to let such a prime spot sit idle when it could be incubating tasty new concepts instead, especially in the face of a struggling downtown retail and restaurant environment. They could even partner with a local bank or investment fund or mobilize the DDB/CRA to plug in particularly successful pop-up operators into some of the other vacant properties downtown as well with a rent subsidy to help them find their legs.
What would you like to see in this space?
I like the incubator idea. Do you know if anyone has reached out to Valencia? It would be a great opportunity for their culinary students. When Valencia was planning their new building downtown, there was talk of developing some type of restaurant concept. It didn’t happen, but the city hall space may create an opportunity to revisit that idea.