DDA grants funds for new eatery

A planned dining destination in a downtown redevelopment project received a grant from the Downtown Development Authority to assist with some of the costs of renovation.

Iron, which will open on the first floor of the 25 Ottawa Building, received a $10,000 Building Reuse Incentive Program grant and a $2,000 commercial signage grant from the DDA during the board’s final meeting of 2015 on Wednesday.

The approval came with unanimous support.

Chef Chris Perkey, who conceptualized the project, said the money from the BRIP grant will be used to assist with the construction of ADA-compliant restrooms and a new fire-suppression system for the storefront. The overall cost is estimated at $345,000.

The commercial signage grant will help cover some of the $10,000 estimated cost of Iron’s signage package, which includes a 36-by-72-inch LED-lit sign over the entrance, and a 60-by-24-inch hanging sign on the building’s facade.

Iron’s focus will be on locally sourced meats and produce and the use of cast-iron skillets to cook many of its meals. Perkey said the restaurant will employ between 25 and 35 people, although those numbers will be flexible with the opening of an outdoor seating area in the summer, and the potential for catering, thanks in part to the restaurant’s large kitchen area.

In developing the storefront, Perkey said the restaurant space was halved to create more atmosphere.

Perkey addressed some concerns about the history of the location, previously home to several bars and nightclubs, and reassured the board about its appeal as a potential dining destination.

“We want to erase some of the history over there,” Perkey had said during his opening statement, during which he introduced the concept of the restaurant becoming a “dining destination.”

When DDA board chair Brian Harris asked Perkey about his business model, the award-winning chef said Iron will close at 10 p.m., is about a third the size of the previous tenant and will have a capacity of 88 people. He also noted the recent relocation of 500 Spectrum Health employees to the building, increasing foot traffic.

“With the moving in of Spectrum Health, the old building and the whole neighborhood — with Arena Place going up on the corner — really has a very vibrant feel, I think, and is a great thing for downtown,” Perkey said.

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