What will inhabit those thousands of new square feet has been under wraps, until now.
"There's a Korean fried chicken franchise coming in that's famous in Korea with a bunch of restaurants called bb.q," Burtoni says.
The fried chicken restaurant's name, bb.q, stylized in lowercase letters, is an acronym for "best of the best quality." It was founded in 1995 in Seoul, South Korea, and has since opened locations worldwide. The chain is set to open its first spot in Arizona, inside the Mekong Plaza, by early next year.
The fried chicken restaurants promise their recipes, developed in their own "Chicken University," produce juicier, crispier, and more tender chicken "than anything you’ve tasted before, and our sauces provide an eclectic mix of flavor," according to the chain's website.
The new bb.q in Mesa will serve chicken flavors rarely seen in the Valley. A portion of the hearty chicken menu includes Galbi, a dish of savory, sweet, and smoky chicken garnished with green onions and sesame seeds; Gang Jeong, chicken with a soy-based sauce, cinnamon, and chile; and Gangnam Style chicken with spicy black pepper sauce, balanced with onions and garlic. The restaurant will also serve Korean classics, including variations of bokki and fried rice dishes, along with snackable finger foods.
"They are changing up the concept," Burtoni says. "They will move into the new space, occupying about 3,500 square feet."
While Burtoni couldn't share the exact names yet, he says a Vietnamese mom-and-pop restaurant is coming in from Los Angeles, and a Chinese clay pot restaurant is moving in. Burtoni also hinted that there will be an additional 6,000-square-foot Korean barbecue restaurant.
"But not ready to drop the name yet," he says. "It's a local guy."
"It's going to draw some new people," he says. "The supermarket back there is not as busy as it used to be because of the new supermarkets opening nearby. So hopefully, the new [expansion] will bring in new people if it has some cool spots."
Burtoni says he hopes the new additions will attract younger folks from the nearby Arizona State University campus and Mesa Community College, also located along Dobson Road.
One Korean concept the developers hope to attract is "sul-jip." Burtoni explains, "They are Korean pubs that serve little dishes. Right now, they're pretty popular. So we are talking to some people about that. Then we are also talking about a ramen and bar place. So with some alcohol type of thing here, it would bring the younger demographic."
Before the pandemic, Mekong Plaza was a popular spot for Chinese international students from ASU. At times, you could spot Ferraris, Lamborghinis, and Bentleys in the plaza's parking lot. The buzz brought in other students with Asian and Pacific Islander backgrounds, and it was a cultural melting pot.
"And right when COVID hit, all of that stopped," Burtoni says. So now that everything has opened back up, "We have a deal with the Mesa Community College where they do some advertising for their international program. Hopefully, it'll continue to grow when China and other places open back up and make it easier for [international college students] to return to ASU and Mesa Community College for school."
Initially, in July, when New Times reported that Mekong Plaza was getting a $10 million and 35,000-square-foot buildout, the project was slated to be completed by July 2023. But the plans have been pushed back closer to 2024.
"There's a lot of challenges going on with construction," Burtoni says. "There's a semi-conductor factory taking all of the concrete. We can only get concrete when they don't want to buy concrete. So that's just one facet of it."
"We started pouring footing, and we are going to pour the slabs," Burtoni continues. "Then, after the slab is down, the walls will go up, and everything will be pretty quick."
Regarding commitments for the new expansion area, Burtoni says they are at almost 70 percent occupation with pre-signed leases.
"We are kinda holding out on the last 10,000 square feet of the building to find a larger tenant or a big national franchise," he says.