Phoenix could put out a call for a new dining concept at Margaret T. Hance Park in the coming months, seeking to transform a former firehouse into a culinary space reflecting the city’s current food scene. Whether that happens will depend in part on feedback received from the community, according to a city spokesperson Phoenix New Times reached by phone on Tuesday.
Heather Rasmussen, a project manager in the city’s community and economic development department, shared preliminary details of the potential project during a recent meeting of representatives for several downtown neighborhoods. The parks and recreation department is also involved with planning for the project, which includes a site just south of Burton Barr Central Library.
The city owns a 4,730-square-foot fire station located at 1130 North First Street and is currently weighing whether to secure a restaurant for the space using its request for proposal (RFP) process. Basically, interested community members who meet certain qualifications would be able to pitch their ideas, and the city would use set criteria to evaluate which one is the best fit.
The project would “rehabilitate that firehouse into a full-service dining experience,” Rasmussen explained during her presentation to Downtown Voices Coalition, which met via Zoom on Saturday, May 8. “We’re really wanting to increase amenities for visitors to the park, residents, and tourists who may be coming in, while still maintaining the basic aesthetic and design of the firehouse.”
The city is still pulling together the specifics, and a spokesperson for the community and economic development department says it could be months before there’s a decision about whether or not to proceed with an RFP.
Even so, the city has shared some basic information that could help interested parties think about what they’d like to propose if the RFP comes together. Details about the larger Hance Park revitalization project are posted on the city’s website, where a map shows the former fire station sitting at the center of the park redevelopment area just east of the Irish Cultural Center.
The city plans to seek a “full-service, high-quality dining experience,” according to slides Rasmussen shared during Saturday’s meeting. For now, the city has identified minimum qualifications for people who want to throw their hat into the ring, including the following: “Each proposing team must have experience with adaptive reuse development and operating a full-service restaurant.”
Under the current proposal, the restaurant would have a 10-year lease, and officials would want the restaurant to bring an annual cash return that equals the appraised value for the property. Hence, they’d be looking at the “financial capacity” of people who submit a proposal, rather than just their experience and qualifications.
The city is still finessing the fine print, so people will need to read the RFP once it’s issued to get the exact requirements, assuming the project moves forward. Anyone can sign up to get notifications from the city when those are issued through "The Hot List."
The city has a working timeline for moving the project forward, in the event the RFP is a go. According to Rasmussen’s presentation, it could release the RFP this summer, with a fall deadline for proposals. Under that scenario, the city would announce which proposal they recommend by late 2021. Construction of permanent operations would likely happen in spring 2023.
The area is already home to numerous restaurants and cafes, including several located in hotels or midrise housing developments. The long list of dining options near Hance Park includes Fair Trade Café, Fez, The larder + the delta, Thai Basil, and many more.
“That unique food scene that we have in Phoenix is something we all really cherish," she says, "So we’re hoping that we’ll have some really interesting concepts come in.”
Editor’s note: This article was updated from its original version.
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