Earlier this week, the Houston First Corporation and a group of civic leaders including Mayor Sylvester Turner and Astros owner Jim Crane announced an ambitious plan to transform downtown’s Jones Plaza into a premier destination. As part of the two-year, $20-plus million project, the space will gain a two-story, indoor-outdoor dining space.
Local restaurant consultant Chris Tripoli will be leading the effort to develop the restaurant at Jones Plaza. As the president of A'la Carte Consulting Group, Tripoli has played a key role in building the partnerships that have united local restaurateurs with public spaces such as The Grove at Discovery Green, Artista at the Hobby Center, Niko Niko’s at Market Square, and The Dunlavy along Buffalo Bayou. Tripoli tells CultureMap that he expect something similar at Jones Plaza.
“The initial phase intends to confirm market needs, customer profile, and recommended concept (venue, size, operational requirements, hours of operation, estimated cost and projected annual revenue) as well as identify potential operators,” Tripoli writes in an email. “Upon approval, we plan to initiate the second phase which includes the development of a RFP, qualifications of operators, and assistance with selection.”
Part of what makes the project so interesting is that it will have a broad scope. Ideally, the restaurant will serve as a breakfast and lunch option for downtown office workers, a dinner destination for the area’s rapidly growing residential community, and a pre and post-show option for patrons of the area’s various performance venues.
Downtown’s rapidly improving dining options will also influence Jones Plaza’s development. Lyric Market, a 31,000-square foot food hall that unites developer Jonathan Enav with local restaurant group Clark Cooper Concepts (Ibiza, Brasserie 19, Coppa Osteria, etc.), will only be a block away at the intersection of Smith and Prairie. In addition, nearby Bayou Place is home to a few restaurants including the Hard Rock Cafe.
“I believe the single biggest difference between the foodservice programming for this project and the work we provided for the others is that our downtown has progressed so much in the past decade,” Tripoli writes. “Rather than looking at a way of create an attraction (Hobby Center and Discovery Green) we will be looking more at fitting into a more established food service scene and its buying habit while offering a distinctive point of difference.”
The specifics which operator will claim the space and what style of food the restaurant will serve are several months away (at least), but it certainly bears watching. Discovery Green and Avenida Houston have been transformed by an influx of restaurants; bringing something similar to the western side of downtown will hopefully transform help Jones Plaza become an equally popular destination.