Eric Walusis and Maria Walusis, the couple behind Watermark restaurant in Miamisburg, are looking to bring a new fine dining option to the Fire Blocks District in downtown Dayton. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

Fire Blocks draws interest from restaurants, entertainment businesses

Interest in the Fire Blocks is heating up as multiple groups have signed letters of intent or submitted deposits to occupy space in the district.

The Fire Blocks developer declined to identify potential tenants at this time but says they include an “elevated bar” concept, a coffee shop, a sports bar with a twist, and a games and entertainment destination unlike anything in Dayton.

The couple behind Watermark, a popular Miamisburg restaurant, are in negotiations to open a new restaurant in a highly visible space in the district at the corner of South Jefferson and East Third streets.

“The timing is good and we feel very, very positive about where things are with Windsor,” the district’s developer, said Eric Walusis, manager of Watermark and husband to owner and head chef Maria Walusis. “We think that downtown Dayton is at the tipping point, and it will get over that hump and be sustainable and (coasting) from here.”

MORE: Dayton’s Fire Blocks development: ‘We are doing an entire neighborhood’

This week, multiple groups met with an architect to begin to lay out some vacant first-floor spaces on the 100 block of East Third Street, said Eric VanZwieten, head of marketing and public relations with Columbus-based Windsor Companies.

The groups, which included a few familiar faces in Dayton’s culinary scene, are looking to lease storefronts in the Huffman Block building (a.k.a David Building), he said.

One space would offer physical activities, games and drinking, similar to Pins Mechanical Company in Columbus and Cincinnati, VanZwieten said. Pins Mechanical offers ping pong, pinball, foosball, duckpin and bocce.

Two “killer bar concepts” likely are coming into the Fire Blocks District, possibly with the entertainment and games business wedged between and connecting them, VanZwieten said.

MORE: New Watermark restaurant in Miamisburg is open

A fitness studio also is looking to move into one of the ground-floor spaces, and so is a breakfast sandwich shop, he said.

He said a coffee shop from California also is planning to move into a different building on the south side of East Third Street. The Fire Blocks District is centered around the 100 block of East Third Street.

The games and entertainment destination could open in late spring, and other businesses could open in the summer, VanZwieten said. The loft apartments on the upper levels of the Huffman Block building are expected to open in the fall.

Maria and Eric Walusis are in talks to lease the empty first-floor space of the Elks building, located at 100 E. Third St.

Maria Walusis first opened Nibbles restaurant in Miamisburg about four years ago. In 2017, she opened Watermark in a larger space next door. Nibbles remains the name of their catering business.

The Walusises hope to open a restaurant and bar that would take up about 5,500 square feet of space, which includes the area the Century Bar currently occupies. Century Bar plans to expand and relocate to adjacent building to the south.

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The vision is to build on the reputation and style of Nibbles and Watermark by offering a blend of old and classic cuisine with modern and creative dishes, Maria Walusis said.

Watermark offers “approachable fine dining” with global tastes including French, Italian and new and regional American foods, she said.

The new restaurant would be a little more upscale than Watermark, but will have casual foods like burgers and a later-night bar menu, Maria Walusis said. The restaurant would have a lounge with a large bar that serves specialty and high-end craft cocktails.

The new restaurant and bar would be stylish — but not snooty — and comfortable, Eric Walusis said.

“This is not going to be Watermark part II,” Eric Walusis said. “It’s going to be a completely new place with a completely new vibe.”

The space in the Elks building has high ceilings, large concrete columns and a large facade of windows.

Eric Walusis said the restaurant and bar would retain the history of the space but would have modern touches.

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