Dining With Denise Neil

Wanted: A wine bar, deli or tavern to complete downtown’s Spaghetti Works District

Ground was broken exactly a year ago, and since then, Wichitans have watched as a fancy new two-story modern brick building complex has gone up on the 600 block of East Douglas, east of Naftzger Park.

Tenants will soon be moving into the space, dubbed Spaghetti Works District for the neighboring historic building where Spaghetti Works restaurant once operated. That building has since been turned into 41 high-end apartments, but the Spaghetti Works sign is still printed in big block letters along the top of the building and has served as a landmark for years.

Anchor tenant Martin Pringle Law Firm is set to start moving into the corner space in September. Eric Fisher Salon has leased one of the Douglas-facing spaces and will open in November. And Hairy Sofa Pet Grooming will open this spring in one of the park-facing spaces closest to the new apartments on the south end of the development.

But restaurants will be a big draw at the new development, said Brad Saville, the president and CEO of Landmark Commercial Real Estate, who is finding restaurant and retail tenants for the $23 million “live, work, play” development.

One restaurant tenant has already been announced. A third Wichita location of Homegrown, a local breakfast and brunch restaurant by the founders of Carlos O’ Kelly’s, should open in a park-facing spot next to Martin Pringle early next year.

But Saville said he wants at least two more restaurants, and although he hasn’t found the exact right ones, he said, he has ideas about what types of bars and restaurants would work best.

“We’re being real selective,” he said. “We’re trying to handpick some special ideas for the last few spaces.”

Saville said he envisions an upscale liquor store, a wine bar, a deli or an “upper end sports bar or tavern” for the development, and an ideal space would be the Douglas-facing spot on the east end, right by the train tracks. There’s between 3,000 and 4,000 square feet of space to work with, he said, and that spot has room for a covered patio.

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A rendering of what the completed Spaghetti Works district will look like Courtesy Courtesy illustration

There’s also a 2,700 square foot space south of the Homegrown spot and north of the Hairy Sofa spot that Saville said is “a great size for a fast-casual restaurant.”

“We’ve got traction and a lot of interest,” he said. “We’re talking to some different folks that already have locations, and we’re talking to entrepreneurs who it’s been their dream to do something like this.”

The area should be an easy sell, especially with how much it’s grown, even over the past year, he said, recounting a recent on-site meeting where he observed lots of activity in the city center, including people zipping past on scooters.

He said more has happened downtown over the last few years than in the past 20, and when the renovated Naftzger Park becomes home to events and live performances, the area will become even more vibrant.

Saville, who also is talking to insurance, finance and banking businesses about renting the upper level spaces (which will afford them access to a third-floor party deck), said he hopes to have the final restaurant tenants identified sooner rather than later.

“If someone gets excited and commits in the next few months, they could be open by early spring,” he said. “What we really want is for the entire project and everyone to be in by early next year to next spring.”

Denise Neil has covered restaurants and entertainment since 1997. Her Dining with Denise Facebook page is the go-to place for diners to get information about local restaurants. She’s a regular judge at local food competitions and speaks to groups all over Wichita about dining.
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