GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Years after the troubled Club Tequila bar closed its doors for good, new life is coming to the derelict site in Grand Rapids.
The building at the southeast corner of Division Avenue and Delaware Street SE remained vacant for a decade. Now there’s activity on the lot, with contractors starting “selective interior and exterior demolition,” according to a March 10 city permit application.
Crews started demolishing the building’s facade last week, according to tenant Jessica Ann Tyson.
“This is the perfect time to bring restoration and love to that area so it can become a jewel again,” said Tyson, owner of The Candied Yam Delightful Southern Cuisine restaurant.
The city planning commission approved a special use permit for The Candied Yam’s second location in October.
Tyson told News 8 earlier this month that she is planning a “whole overhaul” of the site, which will be home to a restaurant and 200-person banquet center. The renovations include removing the porch/patio area on the building’s south side and repairing, repaving, restriping and landscaping the parking lot, according to plans submitted to the planning commission.
Tyson’s new restaurant will face Division Avenue and accommodate about 96 people. She says the business will serve up the same Southern cuisine that launched The Candied Yam into Yelp’s Top 50 Places to Eat in Grand Rapids.
Tyson says the building’s interior will include larger windows and “modern chic but incorporate comfy touches” to complement her food. Tyson is also considering a “fun Southern plaid” for the outside of the building. The new banquet hall will use LED lighting.
Any alcohol sales will come from a licensed alcohol caterer. Tyson says the banquet offerings “will be a bit more handsome to include local vendors.”
“Odors, if any, will be delightful,” Tyson stated in papwerwork submitted to the Grand Rapids Planning Commission.
The Candied Yam will continue to run its original restaurant on 44th Street and Breton Road; Tyson says the new restaurant and banquet hall are just an extension of that business.
In October, Tyson told the Grand Rapids Planning Commission she was excited to get back to a place where she started her business in 2003. She said the facility used to be a place where she could take the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and host other events, but the business changed over time, eventually becoming “an eyesore to the community.”
In paperwork filed with the city, Tyson said her new business would be an asset in redeveloping the neighborhood, which currently doesn’t have any restaurants with sit-down dining.
“We just want to change the dynamics from what it once was and just bring a place where the community can make positive memories,” she said.
Tyson said it was “super competitive” to secure the property, but she wanted to ensure her Black-owned business could participate in building equity with this agreement. Instead of a traditional owner-tenant relationship, Tyson says she reached a deal for a three-way partnership with Mull Trie LLC and the Trierweiler Family Trust.
Tyson said she hopes other property owners will consider similar equity-building partnerships with minority entrepreneurs.
The general contractor of the project, Kozak Construction, has been instructed to engage minority contractors for the bidding process, Tyson said. She also plans to hire minority-owned businesses as vendors and neighbors to staff her new business.
Tyson said she has already been in touch with neighbors in the area.
“When they heard we were potentially coming there, they were so thrilled… I felt honored that they would want us to be there,” she said.
“This site was something that has a lot of memories attached to the community — mostly positive, some not so positive. And we think with the … love that we are able to bring to the community, that this is the perfect location,” Tyson added.
She hopes to open the new restaurant and banquet hall this summer.