No, Lane Parke isn’t where owner and developer John Evans wants it to be.
He wishes construction had already begun on the second phase, which is now a vacant parcel of dirt, and he’s sympathetic toward Mountain Brook residents who have tolerated the project’s protraction.
But Evans remains optimistic about Lane Parke’s future. In recent months, the outlook has brightened.
Evans, who owns Evson Inc., has secured leases with ABC Select Spirits, a state-run liquor store, and the U.S. Postal Service. ABC is set to open Jan. 1, Evans said, while the new post office is set to open in February.
Evans also has hired a new leasing and management company, Crawford Square Real Estate Advisors, that came aboard in September.
The company’s owner, Sam Heide, quickly negotiated a lease with the Latin-influenced restaurant Sol Y Luna, which will open in December.
“They have a real good knowledge of what’s needed in the village,” Evans said of Crawford Square. “Plus, they have the contacts to be successful with that vision.”
Heide and his fellow principals, Jackson Ratliff and Mary Beyer Lell, are all Mountain Brook residents. Evans said their familiarity with the city and the project will be beneficial moving forward.
“We felt like we could really make a difference and have some success with the project given our proximity to the development and our understanding of what we feel like the Mountain Brook consumer wants,” Heide said.
Heide said his team’s ultimate vision for Lane Parke is for it to complement the existing stores and restaurants in Mountain Brook Village. He called the village one of the more unique real estate properties in the Southeast and said Lane Parke will further it is a destination.
“The whole village is our canvas,” Heide said, “and we just have to fill in some gaps, and Lane Parke can do that.”
Heide has started that process with Sol Y Luna. The restaurant operated in Birmingham’s Lakeview district for 16 years before closing in 2013, to the disappointment of many area residents.
When it reopens, it will serve its original menu featuring authentic Mexican tapas dishes, premium tequilas and Latin cuisine in an upscale setting.
“When we closed Sol Y Luna, it left a void for so many people — me included,” owner Jorge Castro said in a press release announcing its return. “We are happy to say that we are giving our customers what they have asked for…Sol Y Luna is coming back.”
Heide said his team hopes to bring a couple more local restaurants to Lane Parke, along with local and regional fitness and apparel concepts. He also said he would like to land some national retailers that aren’t already in the area.
Crawford Square will aim to find tenants for the remaining retail space in Lane Parke’s first phase and pre-lease space in the development’s second phase.
The first phase includes the Grand Bohemian Hotel, Lane Parke Apartments and about 67,000 square feet of retail. Once ABC and the post office open, Evans said more than 90% of the available space will be filled.
Lane Parke’s second phase will include about 48,000 square feet of retail, Evans said, and is around 25% pre-leased.
“I think the opportunity is there now for the community to really get behind this development,” Heide said.
Future phase two tenants include Regions Bank and Starbucks. The popular coffee chain will eventually relocate from the corner of Montevallo Road and Petticoat Lane, Evans said.
In September, the Mountain Brook City Council voted 4-1 to approve the inclusion of a drive-thru coffee shop in the development’s second phase.
“The tenants drive the deal and, in the case of Starbucks, they already have a location,” Evans said, “so their willingness to move was contingent on the drive-thrus.”
Gas, sewer and water lines already have been installed in the ground on which Lane Parke’s second phase will rise. Evans said he’s aiming to begin vertical construction in the first six months of 2020 and open by the middle of 2021.
When it does, it will cap a project that has been in the works since 2004.
“I think once we get the second phase of the retail open and no more construction, I’m confident that the citizens of Mountain Brook and the citizens of the surrounding communities will embrace Lane Parke,” Evans said.
Heide expressed similar enthusiasm.
“I think we’re really on the brink of doing something great here,” he said.