In a few months, residents of historic neighborhoods along Uptown 23rd can enjoy the choice of walking down the street to grab a fresh bagel, shop for clothing, enjoy a cigar and a glass of whiskey or a cup of tea if they plan on getting a tan and working out during their excursion.
A year after starting work on converting a rundown strip shopping center into an upscale retail destination, Johnathan Russell is celebrating his success at assembling a list of tenants that matched his early ambitions for The Rise at NW 23 and Walker.
“It was our goal not to just fill the space but to create a tenant mix that works well together — that's complimentary,” Russell said. “We wanted to put real retail on 23rd, not just restaurants and bars. From a sustainability standpoint, it's important for foot traffic to have more than that.”
Demolition and site work began last spring, and an opening is expected by April.
For years, the 75-year-old shopping center was best known as the home of the Hotel/Motel Furniture Liquidators store. But with the emergence of popular restaurants and bars along the Uptown 23rd corridor, most notably Tucker's, Big Truck Tacos, Pizza 23, Orange Leaf Frozen Yogurt, Grandad's and Cheever's Cafe, Russell in 2012 bought the building, along with empty lots to the north.
He previously announced that an adjoining vintage Texaco station will be converted into a bar, The Pump, to be operated by Ian McDermid.
A building next door to The Pump, meanwhile, is set to become Gusto Pizza, which will be operated by restaurateurs Shaun Fiaconne and Chris Lower. The Rise, meanwhile, will include an upscale men's and women's clothing store, Red Square Apparel, which will be operated by the owners of Twisted Stitch in Wichita Falls, Texas.
Other tenants will include The Drake, an oyster bar restaurant to be operated by The Good Egg Group; an Old School Bagel shop; Fedora, a whiskey and cigar restaurant and lounge; Urban Tea house; Urban Core Pilates; Anytime Fitness; At the Beach tanning salon; Flashback Retropub, a furniture design store and a T-shirt design shop.
The leases represent about 88 percent of the available space, Russell said, with about 6,000 square feet remaining with pending contracts.
Jennifer Seals, chairwoman of the Uptown 23rd Association, praised Russell for taking his time to ensure The Rise started with a local mix of tenants.
“This is going to revolutionize 23rd Street,” Seals said. “I'm elated, and have been since Jonathan Russell told us what he would do. I trusted he would do it right, and he's turned out to be a man of his word.”