CHANNEL DISTRICT — As it grows into one of the bustling hubs of the Channel District, Grand Central at Kennedy has begun to live up to its name.
The next step: More retail, and a sprawling European-style courtyard that developer Ken Stoltenberg envisions as a neighborhood hangout.
Most of the retail space at the condominium complex at 1208 E Kennedy Blvd. remains empty, but one new business has opened and another is on its way. Be Seen dry cleaning service opened its doors in January and the Pour House, a source for handcrafted beers, likely will open in March.
They join the busy Powerhouse Gym, open since mid 2009 and now boasting more than 3,000 members, and the Stageworks Theatre, which recently began its interior buildout.
Linking it all will be a 12,500-square-foot courtyard between Grand Central's two buildings in a space that until recently was surface parking. The entrances are being closed off and the space will be lined with pavers and dotted with shade trees and seating.
The courtyard will provide outdoor seating space for the Pour House and future restaurants, and serve as space for Stageworks to use during intermissions.
Grand Central now has 100 percent occupancy of its residential units, Stoltenberg said, thanks to a decision a couple of years ago to lease out its unsold condos. But retail tenants have been tougher to come by.
A supermarket and multiple restaurants remain on the wish list, but the Pour House will fill the need for a nighttime hangout. Owners Scott Nietzel and James Vrabel envision something like the corner bars in their hometowns of Chicago and Pittsburgh.
"It's that social network place you can go after work," Vrabel said. "The Channel District … just needs to find its voice. The people I talk to that live in the Channel District don't want to go down to Channelside. They're getting in their car or hopping in the trolley to Ybor or going to midtown. We're really trying to keep our friends in Grand Central happy."
The wet zoning process for the 2,500-square-foot space is not yet complete, but Pour House plans call for beer and wine sales on site plus limited package sales for those who want to grab and go.
Vrabel said the priority is "good quality beer" with 40 beers on tap and over 100 by the bottle, with a focus on small, handcrafted domestic labels. Nietzel, the owner of Wine Design in Channelside Bay Plaza, will add the Pour House's wine component.
The space has no kitchen, but there is room to add one. For now, Vrabel expects to offer a limited selection of munchies. "We're still working that piece out," he said. "It will depend on the customer."
The Pour House will be open daily, and open late, though hours are not yet finalized. Its Web site is pourhousetampa.com.
Be Seen bills itself as "dry cleaning for the VIP." Owners Terry and Dolly Riney have extensive corporate and sales experience and decided to open a business of their own. The Channel District needed a dry cleaning location, Terry Riney said, and their son lives at Grand Central.
"We both love to meet people," he said. "We're servers of everybody we ever meet. We love to entertain, we love dogs. (We said) let's open a business where we can meet people every day and give them courtesy service that we would like to have."
Dolly Riney, an interior designer, focused on creating an upscale, urban look. The Rineys keep coffee, espresso and dog biscuits on hand for customers. The dogs have already learned to stop by for a treat. "Owners walk by and can't finish their walk until they come into our store," Terry Riney said.
Be Seen's dry cleaning is "100 percent green," he said. One-day service is available, and there are plans for a daily pickup and delivery service. Hours are 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 to 2 on Saturday. Be Seen is marking its grand opening this month with 20 percent off all dry cleaning.
One or more restaurants likely will be the next to move in, said Stoltenberg, who said he is in talks with several interested parties. He envisions Grand Central as the anchor of the neighborhood and remains committed to bringing a grocery store to the complex.
"We are going to get a supermarket at Grand Central sooner rather than later," he said. "We understand how important that is."
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