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Sit-down food service ramps up the experience at seven-vendor Hall on Franklin

TAMPA HEIGHTS

The Hall on Franklin is readying for an August opening as a trendy mash-up of food and beverage vendors sharing a century-old former automobile showroom.

Now, instead of model Fords, the draw will be coffee and cocktails, seafood and shakes, gooey sandwich melts and boozy cupcakes, DJs and WiFi.

The seven-restaurant collective joins an enclave of entrepreneurs reawakening the northern edge of downtown Tampa, a lively entertainment district until the streetcars stopped running.

A serious foodie but hospitality newbie, owner Jamal Wilson spent a year concocting the tenant mix for the 1701 N Franklin St. food hall.

Wilson attracted well-known local veterans of the business:

Poke Rose. A playful, Hawaiian poke bowl concept from Chef Jason Cline.

North Star Eatery. Asian street food, banh mi and Stinky Bunz from Singh and Kevin Hurt, who also own Anise Global Gastrobar.

Bake'n Babes. Breakfast empanadas, granola, bacon cookies and more, from Julie Curry, co-owned by the Hurts.

The Heights Melt Shoppe. Indulgent sandwiches, perogies and milk shakes.

The Heights Fish Camp. Southern fried fish and a raw bar. Both Heights kiosks are creations of Dave Burton, Libor Vitu and Larissa Pepe.

Ko-fē. Coffee and tea sourced by master barista Ty Beddingfield, plus breakfast specialities like poached eggs, grits, bacon and kale served in a coffee cup.

The Collection. Craft cocktail lounge with full liquor bar by mixologist Ro Patel.

"It's been a big, fat learning curve," said Wilson, 42, a partner in both the cocktail and coffee bars. After graduating Tampa Prep and Amherst College, he played basketball in Europe, flipped more than 100 houses and chose to be a mortgage banker over a law degree.

On a cross-country study of food halls, Wilson realized how he was going to make his better.

"They were all walk up, order, get a buzzer, go back and get it," he said. "I saw none that were full service."

Diners at the Hall on Franklin will get to choose how they order: — take a seat and order from one comprehensive menu or go exploring at seven vendor kiosks.

"Either way, a waiter will deliver your food to your table," said operations manager Lindsay Dixon, who is hiring 100 employees for the Hall.

And if the furnishings are appealing, order those, too. The leather lounge chairs, bar stools, chandeliers, tables and tile are all for sale through Wilson's retail furniture offshoot.

"I thought, well, if we thought the furniture was beautiful, so would other people," he said.

Before Wilson leased the space, building owner Maureen Ayral spent $2 million rehabilitating it. Among the new features of the historic Fariss building are 18-foot glass garage doors harkening back to its car-dealership era.

Wilson's build-out cost another million, including five kitchens and two bars surrounding cozy seating for 200. Deejays and bands will entertain from the open mezzanine.

Tampa Heights neighbors eagerly welcome the new kid on the block, known collectively as "Yellow Brick Row" for the vintage facade.

Hidden Springs Brewery has already crafted a custom beer called Hall Pass for the Collection. The Rialto Theatre, Foundation Coffee Co., and the Hip Room dance studio expect a symbiotic relationship. Inkwood Books is set to move in across the street, and by the end of the year, Shuffle The Heights will open indoor and outdoor shuffleboard courts at 2612 N Tampa St.

A few blocks West, Ulele and Water Works Park pump more destination buzz.

Armature Works, the much-anticipated retrofitted trolley barn, is just weeks away from showcasing a dozen food vendors in its Heights Public Market. Their event space is well-booked and the adjacent Pearl at the Heights, with 300-plus apartments, is under construction.

Competition, density, variety, bring it on, Dixon said.

"There's plenty of business to go around and it keeps us on top of our game."

Especially, Wilson adds, "as we plan more food halls throughout Florida and nationwide."

Contact Amy Scherzer at ascherzer@tampabay.com.

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