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First-ever destination venue planned for restaurant incubation, culinary exploration, entertainment

With a nod to history and a firm focus on evolving consumer food and dining preferences, Cameron Mitchell Restaurants (CMR) will establish Columbus’ first-ever food hall in the Budd Dairy building in the Italian Village community near downtown. Scheduled to open in 2019, the food hall will license spaces to between 8 and 10 entrepreneurial, chef-driven restaurant concepts.

The Budd Dairy Food Hall is a partnership capitalizing on the deep real estate knowledge of local developer Kevin Lykens and the vast hospitality, food and beverage expertise of CMR. Lykens, an experienced Short North/Italian Village developer, will oversee construction and renovation of the Budd Dairy building, and CMR will curate the selection of artisan restaurant operators, provide day-to-day management, and provide all related services for the food hall’s culinary, entertainment and beverage programs.

“The Budd Dairy Food Hall is about going back to my roots with one of the most exciting projects we’ve ever imagined. Central Ohio embraced me as a young restaurant entrepreneur and gave incredible support to the growth of our company and our associates,” said Cameron Mitchell, CMR founder. “The food hall will position other new restaurateurs to realize a similar opportunity, which allows me to pay the generosity of this community forward to a new generation of entrepreneurs.”

Across the United States, 140 food halls have been built or will open in the next 18 months, reflecting the trend toward this unique approach to leveraging the increasing appeal of local and artisan restaurants, combined with dynamic entertainment, readily-available technologies, and a consumer-first strategy of engagement.

“Food halls are among the most popular, innovative ways to allow dining consumers to actively engage in their food experience, and the Budd Dairy Food Hall will be the first of this scale in the region,” said Steve Weis, CMR vice president of development. “By providing in one venue an opportunity for guests to choose among multiple, artisan food shops, instead of choosing just one restaurant, and then combining it with a strong beverage program; entertainment; and flexible, on-trend spaces to enjoy food and drink; the food hall will be a vibrant destination for residents and visitors alike.”

Food halls not only appeal to new generations of millennials and young urban professionals seeking a vastly different dining environment, but they also create incubator platforms that are more affordable and have lower risk than a traditional bricks-and-mortar restaurant.

“The Budd Dairy Food Hall will be an incredible community asset, because it will support and encourage the growth and development of restaurant start-ups, and that really gets us excited about this project,” said Weis. “Local restaurateurs looking to bring a new concept to market or to grow an existing model, such as a food truck or home-based foods business, can secure space in the food hall with low overhead and immediately engage with a diverse audience of local food adventurers.” Weis sees opportunities in the food hall to nurture and grow both entrepreneurs just entering the restaurant space, as well as more seasoned restaurant operators seeking to launch a new concept.

The total interior space dedicated for the food hall in the Budd Dairy building exceeds 14,000 square feet, plus a rooftop deck. On the first level of the hall, which is about 11,000 square feet, will be a main bar, community seating and the food vendors. A stage on the main level will be used for live performances, including DJs, bands and other local artists. The hall’s second floor will focus more heavily on entertainment, with a smaller bar, interactive games and the option of reserving the entire space for private events catered by the food hall’s food vendors. A rooftop deck, in season, will provide additional entertaining spaces, community seating and a bar. Ample onsite parking will be provided.

While individual concepts will employ their own teams, CMR will deliver their unique brand of hospitality and management to the entire food hall. Special events, private functions and marketing of the Budd Dairy Food Hall will be led by CMR. Project leaders envision the food hall will swiftly become a regional travel destination and popular local attraction.

“Our expectations are as limitless as what we can imagine,” said Mitchell. “This spectacular project fulfills our dream of empowering unique, up-and-coming food artisans to grow their businesses in a positive, high-energy venue with the oversight and hospitality experience of our Cameron Mitchell Restaurants team. The Budd Dairy Food Hall also leverages the unparalleled national excitement of food halls to attract young urban professionals and visitors alike to one of the fastest-growing areas of our city.”

Weis said a leading focus of the next few months for CMR is discovering the entrepreneurial artisan operators and restaurateurs interested in joining the food hall to develop their concept. A committee of CMR executives will oversee the application process and make final determinations about the first licenses issued to operators. CMR also intends to provide continuing education opportunities for artisan operators on topics such as infrastructure development, capital investment, systems and other issues that face growing businesses.

Lykens will develop 11,000 square feet of the Budd Dairy building’s lower level into co-working office and technology incubators and an additional 25,000 square feet in the building’s historic carriage warehouses into creative office space.

“The 4th Street corridor has quickly become one of the more vibrant districts in the Short North/Italian Village, and the opportunity to preserve the historic Budd Dairy property, along with partnering with Cameron Mitchell Restaurants and bringing class A office space to the area, is truly exciting. The combination of the pioneering establishments, coupled with a Food Hall concept and offices, will be transformative for the area,” said Lykens.

Food vendors interested in applying for the Budd Dairy Food Hall should move quickly to fill out an application online. Updates on the project will be available on the website.

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