Spent a few hours today with Phil Romano, Stuart Fitts and Larry "Butch" MacGregor at their Singleton Boulevard HQ at the foot of the Calatrava bridge. It's the brick building painted red -- one of three on that side of the bridge now decorated with Shepard Fairey's handiwork. When I pulled up a little after 12:30, there were a handful of folks taking photos of the new murals; when Fitts and I took a walk around a couple of hours later, there were still more tourists from the east side of the Trinity.
Ostensibly our chat was about their Trinity Groves restaurant-incubator concept; come summer they hope to begin opening eateries, one by one by one, in the brightly painted structures the trio have amassed on the west side of the Trinity. When we took our walk around Fitts could point to each building and say who was going where. But before that happens, as you can see from the photos above and below, there are trees to be planted and parking lots to be graveled; these will be the sites for several of the opening-weekend bridge-bash events scheduled one month from today.
Among those slated to move in to the sprawling development planned along Singleton: Luna's Tortillas, Mike Babb's barbecue (with a live-blues component), Sharon Van Meter's Milestone Culinary Arts Center, in addition to, oh, rooftop bars, butchers, bakers, cheesemakers, fishmongers -- a little bit of everything, it would seem.
It's a complicated business model, the way they explain it: investors paired with chefs (Stephan Pyles, Kent Rathbun, Nick Badovinus, Dean Fearing ... for starters) to create sellable, spreadable concepts. Some will be temporary eateries; others, permanent. "If I were younger, I'd do this all myself," says Romano, the man behind eatZi's, Fuddruckers, Nick & Sam's, Macaroni Grill and on and on. "I'd get the investor group and put people in each space. But we're gonna get real owners, a guy who's gonna be here bustin' his ass, not some absentee owner. ... We'll have Chinese, Italian, soul food, Indian, barbecue. And what comes with that are the people who do it, a diversity in cultures."
"Food is a great resource," says Fitts. "It brings culture."
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We'll get into this more tomorrow; there's a lot to transcribe here, including what the trio initially considered doing with the land at the base of the bridge -- and what's yet to come. But I did want to know when the residential's coming. Because, surely ...
"It'll expand when the timing's right," says Fitts.
"We have apartment developers talking to us now," adds MacGregor, who was the first one to begin buying property on Singleton. He says: There's no rush.
"We want it to be an evolution, not a revolution," says Romano. "We want it to evolve."