The first new commercial construction in Paseo in decades is set to start early next year as restaurateur Shaun Fiaconne teams with developer Jeremy Foraker to build a two-story building at the eastern gateway to the neighborhood.
Foraker, a former partner in The Rise shopping center being built at NW 23 and Walker Avenue, said plans for the project will be submitted for approval at next month’s meeting of the Urban Design Committee. The corner, once home to a gas station, has stood empty for at least 30 years with just the crumbling foundation remaining.
The plans call for a 9,000-square-foot building with a restaurant and coffee shop on the first floor and office space on the second floor. A large patio area draped with light strings will open to the corner of NW 28 and Walker Avenue.
Fiaconne, who owns and operates Picasso’s Cafe in the Paseo, first sought to buy the property after a for-sale sign popped up just weeks after last year’s death of pioneering Paseo developer John Belt.
Fiaconne was worried — ordinarily Belt would have acquired the property and ensured it was developed in a way that was best for the neighborhood. With Belt’s passing, Fiaconne observed several outside interests were looking at buying the lot and possibly pursuing a direction that might not fit with the Paseo.
“I didn’t have the resources or expertise to do it,” Fiaconne said. “ Jeremy had an interest as well — so we combined forces.”
The sale closed in March, and the pair hopes to have the building completed by late 2015.
“We want to get the Urban Design Committee’s thoughts and recommendations,” Foraker said. “We want a little bit of old and new — the Spanish revival look with the colonnade and facade, but also have a modern building behind it. We will have overhead doors on the patio. That would bring the history of the fueling station that was there.”
Fiaconne admits the restaurant concept is yet to be decided.
“You really want to make sure it’s an organic fit with everything going on,” Fiaconne said. “We’re letting the plans for the restaurant and what we do conceptually feel itself out. We don’t really know yet. We’re considering the implications for Sauced and Paseo Grill, making sure it fills a niche without competing with the existing restaurants.”
Through John’s eyes
Fiaconne also wants to make sure the project builds on John Belt’s legacy.
“I want to look at it through John’s eyes,” Fiaconne said. “I would ordinarily talk to John and (wife) Joy and get their blessing. I feel like I’ve got John looking over my shoulders.”
Foraker, meanwhile, credits Paseo, which Belt started redeveloping in the mid-1970s, for inspiring Bricktown, Midtown, Uptown, the Plaza District and other historic neighborhoods that are now part of the city’s urban revival.
“It’s a cool place — I like to hang out there,” Foraker said. “The architecture is cool and it has a long history with people acting on behalf of the district. Overall, it’s a live place to be, it’s fun, and it’s exciting. There is a lot more potential. I want to make an investment in the community and be a part of that history.”