Posted: Feb 4, 2009, 4:33 PM
Join Date: Nov 2007
Downtown Flint to see two new restaurants open soon
by Melissa Burden | The Flint Journal
Wednesday February 04, 2009, 9:22 AM
FLINT, Michigan -- Get ready to eat, downtown Flint.
Two new restaurants with 75 employees, managed and operated by longtime Genesee County restaurateur George Falaras, are coming to the Community Foundation Building on South Saginaw Street.
WizeGuys Pizza Inc. and 501 Bar & Grill could be open within 90 days, said Falaras, 55, of Grand Blanc Township.
That means downtown Flint is getting at least four new restaurants this spring. Full-service restaurant and bar Blackstone's Pub & Grill, 531 S. Saginaw St., should open by April, and Soyla's, a Mexican restaurant, is near opening in the new Wade Trim Building, 555 S. Saginaw St.
But why add downtown restaurants now, when the economy is so bad?
Supporters point to downtown revitalization efforts and the demand created by the growing number of downtown residents -- from the opening last fall of the University of Michigan-Flint's first residence hall with more than 300 students, plus additional student housing coming through the renovation of the Riverfront Character Inn, the former Berridge Hotel and the former Durant Hotel.
"By fall, we'll have another 120 employees downtown," said Phil Shaltz, a managing partner in Uptown Developments, a real estate development and management company working on downtown revitalization projects.
"There will be another 93 apartments in the Durant Hotel, probably 200 to 250 students" in the Character Inn, he said.
And don't forget downtown's estimated 5,000 workers.
The new variety in dining options, coupled with existing sandwich and coffee shops, is good news to downtown restaurant patrons such as John Ciesielski, an engineer at Wade Trim.
"Three of the five days, I head out for lunch," said Ciesielski, 30, of Argentine Township. "I really try to spread it around when I do. I've got my favorites, of course."
WizeGuys and the adjoining 501 Bar & Grill will take up nearly 5,000 square feet on the ground floor of the Community Foundation Building.
Falaras -- founder and majority owner of Blue Collar Gourmet restaurants Redwood Lodge in Mundy Township, Bubba O'Malley's in Burton and Blue Collar Grill in Flint Township -- said he sees downtown's new bar and grill as a lunch and happy-hour spot for business people and professionals.
On the menu are small dishes, called tapas, along with gourmet and specialty sandwiches, soups and pizzas. The full-service bar and grill also will have a private room for meetings and banquets to seat 25 people, Falaras said.
At WizeGuys, look for pizza by the slice and by the pie, customized chopped salads with 35 ingredients to choose from, oven-baked grinders, soups, baked potatoes and beer and wine.
Both restaurants will be nonsmoking and together will seat about 135 people. They each will have wireless Internet access and large, flat-screen televisions. And they'll be open for lunch, dinner and beyond.
Ciesielski said he's looking forward to having someplace new to go after work.
"Come Friday night, or even Thursday night, I'd like to be able to stay down in Flint and go out to eat or have a couple drinks," he said.
The restaurants are the investment of about $750,000 by 501 SSS LLC, comprising area residents Ghassan Saab, Gary Hurand, Phil Shaltz, John Matonich, Dr. Bobby Mukkamala, LaVal Perry and one anonymous investor.
The group is leasing space from the Community First Partnership, which includes the Community Foundation of Greater Flint, Uptown Six and Uptown Reinvestment Corp.
Falaras said he will offer delivery and that people will be able to place orders online.
In 2007, Blue Collar Gourmet dropped its plans for a brew pub and restaurant on the main floor of the Rowe Professional Services Co. building to focus on other ventures.
But Falaras said he hasn't ruled out opening a restaurant in the new Rowe Building, which is expected to be completed this fall just a few doors from the new restaurants.
Don't be surprised to see a fifth restaurant in the future. Shaltz said another one may be headed downtown.
The Community Foundation Building opened in June and with the two new restaurants will be at full capacity, including two loft apartments, office space and commercial space.
"This investment in downtown Flint sends a loud signal that there is real progress on creating a vital new future for our community," said Kathi Horton, president of the Community Foundation of Greater Flint, in a news release.