Using Leftover B.U.R.P. Funds
Downtown() - Citing the main causes of the failure of Metropolitan Gardens as oppressive density, high crime, and lack of a place for residents and their affluent guests to eat together, the Housing Authority of the Birmingham District
, Cahaba Community Development LLC
, Excelsior Corporation, and AFC Enterprises joined today in announcing the opening of the city's first Church's-Bottega restaurant in the heart of the Park Place HOPE VI development. The restaurant, which will be jointly managed by AFC subsidiary Church's Chicken, and Excelsior subsidiary FonFon Inc., is expected to draw diners from all strata of the mixed income community.
"We heard from residents early on that their chief concern, besides relocation to comparable replacement dwellings
, was having a place to eat with their new, more affluent neighbors," said Integral Properties LLC
spokesperson Hope Boldon. Sloss Real Estate subsidiary Cahaba partnered with Integral on the Park Place development, leveraging Integral's Atlanta expertise. "We began talks with local restauranteurs early on to come up with a solution," said Boldon. "Frank Stitt was immediately captivated with the idea, and Church's Chicken was the natural next step as partner. It turns out that AFC had been wanting to close the North Birmingham Church's location anyway, so the timing couldn't have been better." So with funds leftover from some failed Birmingham Urban Revitalization Partnership (B.U.R.P.) projects, planning and design for the new restaurant began in earnest.
Some growing pains accompanied the project, first when it was discovered that the large pressure cooker could not substitute for a brick oven, and later when the oversized grease traps didn't meet city code requirements. "We basically had to build totally separate kitchens," said Stitt. Then it was discovered that the code would not allow a deep fat fryer within 100 feet of an open flame, so a block wall had to be extended through the dining area to provide effective separation. "But we got to keep a door between the dining rooms," said Stitt, "although we had to put a table against ours to squeeze in a few more diners." Early indications are that the combination works. Crowds of mixed-income residents were lined up outside the Church's-Bottega on Tuesday waiting for their first chance to finally get to eat together under the same roof.