Van Buren developer Jim Petty talks Pasta Grill, plans for food truck court

by Aric Mitchell (aric.mitchell@gmail.com) 1,663 views 

Jim Petty, with Strategic Realty, talks about his downtown Van Buren development plans.

Downtown Van Buren will welcome the third Pasta Grill restaurant in Arkansas joining previous locations at Conway and Russellville. The Italian eatery, which also serves steaks and seafood, will open its doors next to Chapters on Main Bookstore “hopefully by early December,” according to Jim Petty of Strategic Realty.

Petty is the owner of the old Cottage Cafe building where Pasta Grill will operate. In a recent interview, he told Talk Business & Politics the cost of remodeling the structure would be between $800,000 and $1 million. A gourmet popcorn store will open next to the restaurant space “sometime in October or early November.” From there, contractors will install the restaurant’s sprinkler system, paving the way for a pre-Christmas open.

Petty said a second restaurant space mirroring the upper portion in general layout would go underneath the Pasta Grill, but he has not located a tenant.

“I’d kind of like to see a place for sandwiches and burgers and to watch the game. If somebody wanted to put something else in there, I’m open to it, but I think it’s conducive to that kind of thing,” Petty said, adding the remodel pricing also includes spaces for approximately eight offices that he plans to rent to other businesses.

Pasta Grill and the still-mystery second restaurant will seat roughly 100 patrons inside and 20-30 on a connecting deck Petty will build along the back of the restaurant and bookstore. Petty hopes developing the back portion of the storefronts will help capitalize on heavy traffic coming up 8th Street toward Main. Before that can happen, however, he will have to pour money into two connecting buildings that run from Pasta Grill to the intersection at 8th and Main. The brick walls are barely standing in the back, and Petty said he suspects at least one of the buildings could fall once crews begin work on the remodels. The cost of repairing those buildings, which Petty said he had to buy as part of the Cottage Cafe purchase, are not included in the $800,000-$1 million figure.

A second project Petty is planning will likely move faster, he said, pointing out recently purchased property at the intersection of 9th and Webster a short distance from Pasta Grill. Petty’s contractors had previously demolished an old home that had grown into a state of disrepair. In its absence, he plans on connecting existing utilities to the pads on site and launching a food truck court with capacity for up to five trucks. The site will add additional dining options to the city’s growing downtown revitalization effort. Petty said he has already spoken to food truck vendors in Fort Smith about trying out the area, which will have all the necessary infrastructure for operations. Petty said his investment in the food truck court would be between $100,000 and $150,000.

Of the food types available, Petty said he would be “selective.”

“I don’t want three taco trucks right here. It’s not good for Van Buren, and it’s not good for the vendors. I want the vendors to be successful. If the vendors are successful and put out a good product, then the people are going to come, and they’re going to make it intentional to be downtown and to think ‘downtown,'” Petty said.

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