Destination restaurant gets Main Street grant

Published 6:10 pm Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Cedar Grove Plantation project got the go-ahead financially with an award of up to $200,000 from the North Carolina Main Street Solutions Fund Award.

Last week, the governor’s office notified Washington, Pinehurst, Tryon and New Bern they would be receiving grant money for revitalization projects: creating jobs, spurring investment and providing direct financial benefit to small businesses.

The small business in Washington’s case is a New Orleans-style restaurant slated for the old City Hall building on Market Street — a building that has been unoccupied and used for storage since the 1980s — once the building has been renovated to historical specifications.

“I am so happy to be able to bring this money to Washington,” said Beth Byrd, director of the Washington Harbor District Alliance. “This has been a great week.”

Byrd honed the grant application alongside Bianca Gentile, who works with the city’s Planning and Development Department, a process Byrd hopes is the first of many.

“Most of these grants are very difficult to get without the support of the city,” Byrd said. “We want to foster this relationship so we can do other grants like this in the future.”

Because of a confluence of events, perfectly timed, in conjunction with the City of Washington and Cedar Grove Plantation LLC, Byrd was in an ideal position to apply for the funds.

“Cedar Grove Plantation was incredibly lucky that their purchase of Old City Hall coincided with the announcement of this funding opportunity,” said Byrd in a released statement.

The future Old City Hall Restaurant specifically fulfilled the requirement to restore an important historic building that was at risk. Owner Kathryn Pisciotta happens to specialize in at-risk buildings. For her, the near future means abiding by environmental and historic criteria framed by the state.

“Anything we do in the building has to be to their specifications,” said Pisciotta, referring to the N.C. State Historic Preservation Office. “But we would go overboard anyway, even if nobody asked us to, because that’s just what we do.”

Pisciotta and her partner in Cedar Grove Plantation LLC will be investing $300,000 of their own money in addition to the Main Street grant award. An architectural plan in hand, Pisciotta has already worked around some of the more problematic issues, like venting the building to restaurant specifications. She anticipates they’ll have to remove only 10 historical bricks from the entire façade, simply because they’ve worked with existing openings, rather than make new ones.

Her goal is to disturb the façade of the building as little as possible.

Inside, the combination of damaged hardwood flooring on the second floor directly above low clearance at the first-floor entrance will allow Pisciotta to rearrange the flooring.

“We’ll have a high-ceilinged entrance, take out flooring on the second floor. We’ll sacrifice square footage for that,” she said.

Pisciotta has prepared for whatever strictures, historical or environmental, are tossed her way over the next few months.

“We’ve been doing this for so long, we have plan A, B, C, D and even an E,” she said.

Currently, the plan is to start work on renovation as soon as the legal paperwork for the Main Street grant is signed Thursday, but already Pisciotta is looking much further into the future — a future that holds a destination restaurant serving up bowls of steaming gumbo and etouffee.

“It’s going to be such a fun place,” Pisciotta said. “I can’t wait!”