Building up Geer Street: Developer behind plans for The Pit location buys another nearby property

Dec. 30, 2012 @ 03:49 PM

The Raleigh-based developer who’s planning to open a barbecue restaurant in a former bottling company building at the corner of West Geer Street and Rigsbee Avenue has purchased another nearby property.
A company connected to Greg Hatem, founder of the Raleigh-based restaurant group Empire Eats, bought property at 319 W. Geer St. for $280,000 in November. The site now houses an operating auto repair business, Parrott’s Automotive.
Hatem said the property’s redevelopment is a “good couple years off” until they decide what to do with the site, and it will remain the site of an automobile repair business until the company decides it needs to start renovations.
“First and foremost, it’ll be used for part of our parking, and then (we’re) pretty sure in the future, (it will be) another concept: a small, little food-related retail store, or another little restaurant or music venue or something,” Hatem said. “Something in fitting with the neighborhood.”
In the more near-term, Hatem is targeting opening a second location of the Raleigh barbecue restaurant The Pit in a portion of a building at 321 W. Geer St. that’s adjacent to the property at 319 W. Geer St. Hatem said he’s targeting the opening of The Pit in Durham in the end of June toward the middle of July.
The Pit in Durham is planned to be similar to the barbecue restaurant in Raleigh of the same name that serves whole-hog, pit-cooked pork barbecue and other items. The restaurant is part of the Empire Eats restaurant, bar and coffee shop group that also includes The Morning Times, The Raleigh Times, Sitti and Gravy.
The Empire-connected limited liability company that bought the property at 319 W. Geer St. also bought the approximately 30,000-square-foot former soft drink bottling building at 321 W. Geer St. for $1.25 million.
The building is planned to house The Pit restaurant and a catering operation, and part of it now also houses the almost 2-year-old independent brewery Fullsteam, which has continued to operate as a building tenant.
“We’re continuing to grow and expand the utilization of that space,” said Sean Lilly Wilson, CEO of Fullsteam.
To prepare for the opening of The Pit, Hatem said building permit applications have been filed. He expects plans for the work required to turn the space into a restaurant will be submitted in January.
“The first phase is kind of the facilities part – infrastructure – and the second phase is the outside, the roof deck, and restoring the windows … and that requires the site plan,” he said. “Once that’s approved, we can move forward.”
Hatem said that he was interested in the building next door because it had a “fair amount” of parking with it, and it’s also “just a really great size to do something fun.”
“The Pit’s going to be a pretty large restaurant – it needs to be – if you’re going to be cooking hogs … it’s kind of fun to get back to that smaller, intimate restaurant,” he said.
Hatem said the timeline for the project at 319 W. Geer St. is on hold for now.
“We’re going through concepts now of what we think would work there,” Hatem said.
Martin Terry, the former owner of the property at 319 W. Geer St., said he sold the property because he’s getting ready to retire and move. He’s a partner in the business Mike’s Transmission Service, which is now located on North Mangum Street. He said it was previously located on Geer Street from 1965 to 1990.
“It’s wonderful,” he said of the changing Geer Street landscape. “I think everything they’ve done in downtown is fabulous,” he added. “I saw it before it was bad, I saw it when it was bad, and now it’s better again.”