Constantine Stavropoulos' announcement that he is opening a sibling to Adams Morgan's Diner and Tryst in Columbia Heights is fitting, with a Sunday New York Times profile about the retail surge - particularly bars and restaurants - in Columbia Heights and its eclectic go-to spots, in contrast to big box stores in the 14th Street section of Columbia Heights.
Stavropoulos purchased the ground floor of 1020 Monroe Street for $1.9 million from Madison Development, the folks who own the commercial Lyon Bakery and have fairly recently entered the world of commercial real estate having purchased the building to convert into condos. Madison purchased the building for $3.2 million in 2010 from a bankruptcy trustee sale.
The 7,000 square foot ground floor space is housed in a 1920's building that Stavropoulos hopes will "attract a mixed crowd" and "will be great for people watching." Constantine especially likes that the building is older and offers interesting architectural elements - old tiles or pressed tin ceilings in addition to open space. Stavropoulos and his father George Stavropoulos will design the interior, as his father is the architect behind Stavropoulos Associates.
Prior to settling on 11th Street, Stavropoulos's choice for a fourth location had been to anchor in what's now Room & Board - a prolonged lobby he ultimately lost. Despite the loss, he says 11th Street has always been on the radar, "since Red Rocks opened and Room 11 hadn't yet been conceived." It wasn't until recently that he found the space on 11th, he also had happened to know the owners for years, since they supply some of the bread for his three establishments. "It's Barry and Fia Madani," he reminisces. "I didn't know they were developers."
Though Stavroupolos says he has received a positive response following his announcement, he hears neighborhood concerns about noise and parking that might result from a high volume restaurant that's open 24-hours. Stavropoulos acknowledges that 11th Street is no Adams Morgan. That he does not know it as intimately hinders him from being as proactive to concerns as he'd like.
"They're totally different neighborhoods in terms of capacity, infrastructure, traffic patterns," he said."The biggest problems with parking and noise in Adams Morgan is during six hours of the evening on Friday and Saturday nights. And those are not the times I'd recommend visiting the neighborhood. The other 150 hours of the week are terrific." As co-president of the Adams Morgan BID and a business owner of Tryst and The Diner for 13 years, he would know.
In private meetings, neighborhood Q&A's and at ANC meetings, he acknowledges he will have to learn about the high traffic times by collecting information from neighboring businesses and monitoring things once the place opens. He is already working toward banding together with Meridian Pint in particular as well as other restaurants on the street to address parking.
"We have to anticipate problems and find solutions, both before problems arise and as they come up," he said.
He hopes that many regulars come from the Metro, bus or within walking distance. He also notes menu items and pricing won't necessarily attract a partying crew past the wee hours. Even in Adams Morgan, his restaurant's late hours attract and eclectic mix as opposed to a boozy one. "My restaurants attract students, construction workers, freelancers," he said. "People are going to and from work all the time. We're not in an era of 9 to 5 anymore."
And as for the name? "I changed the name to The Diner from The Fishbowl the week before it opened," he said. "Then my mother asked if I was opening a fish restaurant." Opening date is slated for fall of 2011. Meanwhile the city is planning a new park directly across the street (rendering, right)
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