The second time might be the charm for Lincoln Yard, a restaurant proposed for the former Birmingham Schools bus garage in the Rail District, which received positive feedback on a special land use permit review and site plan review at a meeting Wednesday, August 14, of the Birmingham Planning Board.
The Birmingham City Commission had approved a bistro license concept for Lincoln Yard in October 2016 for a 2017 bistro license, but restaurateur Curt Catallo pulled out of the process in spring 2017 after determining a bistro license would not work economically.
Catallo said he had purchased the bus garage property, located at 2159 E. Lincoln Road in Birmingham, from neighboring property Armstrong-White, and is seeking an economic development liquor license for a fast casual American restaurant, to be called “Little Yard,” and a dine-in restaurant, “Lincoln Yard,” that serves American comfort food. Lincoln Yard would have 135 indoor seats and 73 outdoor seats over 6,276 square feet. Catallo said they would renovate they entire building.
Planner Brooks Cowan said the applicant is seeking an economic development license, which requires an investment of 500 times the original value of the property and an establishment greater than 6,000 square feet. Cowan said a parking requirement for the site is to provide 65 parking spaces, and they are proposing 58 spots with another 16 at adjacent Armstrong-White, which has an excess of 28 spaces, “so the planning department does not recommend a parking study.”
At this point, planning director Jana Ecker explained, the Rail District is not zoned to permit economic development licenses, which she was were initially for the Woodward corridor. A year ago, in August 2018, the planning board recommended to the city commission that the Rail District would benefit from possible utilization of an economic development license, but “it went nowhere,” she said.
Ecker said the applicant would have to submit an application to the city to amend the zoning or ordinance for an economic development license.
“If we are able to get a Class C liquor license, an economic development license, it would allow us to use the building in a true organic way,” Catallo said. “We really like this iteration because it meets our business plan and it makes this building sustainable.”
Little Yard is designed to serve people on the go, he said, using the same kitchen for grab and go elements that would have a separate eating area. “This really specific fast service is needed for the neighborhood, and it really appeals to us. It could be a standalone somewhere else, but the fact we can incorporate it here is exciting,” he said.
Tentative hours for Little Yard would be 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.; for Lincoln Yard, 11 a.m. to midnight, Monday through Wednesday, and 11 a.m. to 1 a.m., Thursday through Saturday.
“I'm glad you're back,” chairman Scott Clein said. “I think it's a great addition to the area.”
“This is a really funky design. It's cool, it's fun. I think it'll bring a lot of people. Good work,” said board member Janelle Whipple-Boyce.
Board members voted unanimously to postpone final approvals pending an application for an economic development license.