On Monday, the Erie Downtown Development Corp., which bought the property along North Park Row and State Street in September 2018, opened the doors to what it hopes will be a different sort of gathering spot, the Flagship City Food Hall.
But the EDDC — a business-backed organization launched in 2017 to purchase, renovate and repurpose real estate in downtown Erie — had been keeping its eyes on the property for a while.
Even before John Persinger was named the group’s CEO in March of that year, the board had been negotiating to buy Sherlock’s and the other buildings from Thomas “Tippy” Dworzanski, Persinger said.
Renovating the upper two floors of the buildings for use as apartments was a given. Plans for the ground floor weren’t as clear.
“We wanted this to be a community space,” Persinger said. “We talked about what brings the community together. What reaches across the rural-city divide? What can cut across racial and socioeconomic differences?
“We kept coming back to food,” he said.
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Part of a bigger plan
Another five months passed before the EDDC announced its plans in March 2019, not just for the Sherlock’s space, but for all eight parcels.
The EDDC described its plan for a $30 million culinary arts district that included both the fresh food market, apartments on the upper levels and the food hall that opens Monday.
Persinger lays no special claim to the concept.
“Food halls are not a novel idea,” he said. “We have been to food halls in Boston, Pittsburgh, New York, Denver and Salt Lake City.”
The difference, though, is that this food hall, including nine food vendors and a bar, would be about Erie.
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This would not be another food court. No floppy slices of pizza made by the same restaurant chain that sells them on the highway. No buttery pretzels alleged to have been made by someone’s aunt.