Wright Dunbar to get food hall, coffee bar

The Wright Dunbar business district could get a new food hall and coffee bar, which are the exact kinds of amenities neighbors have long said would make the area more of a destination.

“The project responds directly to the needs of residents and visitors to the district and supports Wright Dunbar businesses and budding entrepreneurs,” said Harry Seifert, president of Wright Dunbar Inc.

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Last week, Dayton city commissioners approved giving Wright Dunbar Inc. a $250,000 grant to assist with renovating a vacant conference center at 1100 W. Third St. into new uses.

The organization wants to create an entrepreneurial food hall with leasable spaces for restaurant owners, as well as a new coffee bar, according to city documents.

The project is “transformative” and leverages about $1.1 million in new private investment in the Wright Dunbar area, the city said.

“This project is critical to serving as a catalyst for development by adding much needed amenities for businesses to attract employees and developers for market rate housing and continuing the redevelopment momentum in the Wright Dunbar/Wolf Creek geography,” wrote Dayton economic development director Ford Weber in a memo.

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The grant money, which comes from the West Dayton Development Trust Fund, will help pay for interior and exterior renovations, electrical and other system upgrades, as well as new machinery and equipment and signage and lighting, said Dayton City Manager Shelley Dickstein.

The food hall will be a destination that will build the sense of community among residents and entrepreneurs in the area, officials said.

Hopefully, by the time the project is finished, life will be more like normal than it is currently during the COVID-19 crisis, and people will be able to gather more freely and take advantage of this innovative food concept, Dickstein said.

The food hall will offer an array of food choices, said Seifert, and will be a much-needed amenity in West Dayton.

Some business owners in the district have long said Wright Dunbar needs more eating and drinking options.

To really thrive and grow, the district needs restaurants and a coffee shop and entertainment activities, Jackie Shine, the owner of VJAP Fashion Boutique at 1109 W. Third St., told this newspaper last year.

The district’s only restaurant is Texas Beef & Cattle Co.

The renovation project should get underway within about 90 days and must be completed before the end of next year, according to a development agreement.

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