Bare Hills, a patchwork of business parks, office buildings, rug cleaners and veterinary services on Falls Road north of Lake Falls, is not normally associated with retail stores and restaurants.
But now, a former hydraulic pump manufacturing building just off Falls Road is being redeveloped as a retail center — and the anchor will be the first big restaurant in the area, an ambitious eatery specializing in coal-and-wood-fired food.
The building at 1407 Clarkview Road, best known in recent years as the short-lived home of a Daily Grind coffee shop, is envisioned as housing five service and retail tenants, like a bank and a clothing store, said David Donato, commercial division vice president for Continental Realty Corp., which is redeveloper of the 8,200-square foot property.
A smaller cafe serving breakfast and lunch is also planned.
Continental, which is based in Bare Hills, is also building a parking lot on the center site, Donato said.
One tenant has signed a lease so far — Earth Wood & Fire, a sit-down and carryout restaurant specializing in pizza and burgers. It will use coal and a rare wood-burning broiler, its co-owner said.
"It's a $1 million project," said restaurateur Mark Hofmann, who is opening the eatery with partners Carter Mason, Greg Gunning and John Toomey.
They hope to open this November, Hofmann said.
Lead developer and Continental Realty principal Lawrence Rief would not say how much money is being spent to turn the building into a center.
Driving the project is a belief that Bare Hills can attract not only visitors to the Bare Hills Business Park, the Bare Hills Racquet and Fitness Club, Sunnyfield's gift shop, Princeton Sports and the Falls Road Animal Hospital, but also residents from within a three-mile radius, including north Baltimore, Ruxton andTowson.
"There's a lot of income here, and it's high-density," Donato said.
About 110,000 people live within a three-mile radius and the average household income is $95,000 a year, Donato said.
He believes the Daily Grind suffered for a lack of parking, and that the new parking lot will solve that problem.
"The synergy of the area is pretty nice," he said.
"I think (the area) has everything a retailer would want — daytime and evening," Donato said.
Also high on the Bare Hills area is Hofmann, former owner of two restaurants in Baltimore County, Henry's Bistro and Rothwell's Grill, and former Tark's Grill general manager.
He said he sold Henry's Bistro in Jacksonville in 2007, "to do this project (in Bare Hills) that I've been working on for 4 1/2 years."
A half million dollars in renovations was scheduled to start this week and Hofmann plans to spend as much on start-up equipment, including a josper, a wood-burning broiler from Spain, one of six in the U.S., he said.
Hofmann plans to use the josper for burgers and small-plate dishes, and a coal-burning oven for pizzas.
"Our concept is really an artisan pizza and burger place," he said.
He said he has no competition for more than a mile around, other than an Atwater's cafe nearby. Pepe's Pizza lies south on Falls Road near Mount Washington, and the Valley Inn north on Falls Road.
Hofmann said he signed a 10-year lease at the center.
"We are the lead tenant," he said.