Lawrence Hall, a proposed food hall on Butler Street in Lawrenceville, has been held up for about three years, unable to clear challenges to a zoning variance sought by the owners. The main issue was the hall was four off-street parking spaces short of regulations, and despite mitigation efforts — like bike parking and transit passes for employees — attracted a legal challenge from a community activist.
That challenge was initially successful, but the Lawrence Hall owners appealed to Commonwealth Court.
Last month, a panel of judges from Commonwealth Court sided with the owners, clearing Lawrence Hall’s path to become a reality.
Co-owner Brett Minarik said the ruling was a “huge sigh of relief.” He said he hopes Lawrence Hall will open sometime next year, possibly the summer of 2023.
“We knew we were right,” said Minarik. “It was really satisfying to have an entire panel of judges side with us at the state level.”
On the 4600 block of Butler Street, Lawrence Hall will include an in-house bar, open space with tables in the middle of about 6,000 square feet of space, and vendor kitchens for four restaurants. Kitchen leases will be given out for an indefinite amount of time, unlike other area food hall concepts. It’s all housed in an abandoned warehouse that Minarik said they will preserve as part of development.
Minarik says vendors will occupy Lawrence Hall for as long as the business owners can make it work. He said with the delay in the court case, plans for the food hall have changed slightly, including more space for the back of house, and reducing the proposed vendor kitchens from five to four.
He said people’s support for Lawrence Hall – whether from Lawrenceville residents and stakeholders or fans from outside the city – has been integral in keeping the project alive. Minarik and his co-owners Phoebe Fraser and Adam Harvey have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal and consultant fees alone trying to get Lawrence Hall through a zoning change.
“I want to say how grateful we are. It can feel isolating sometimes, but when we get three to five messages a week supporting us, it makes it worth it, ”said Minarik. “The support was hugely integral, knowing it was not just us.”
In addition, Minarik said Lawrence Hall’s story lead the city to alter its zoning for restaurants, and decrease parking requirements. The food hall still needed to win the appeal in court, but Minarik said now the hall has more parking than legally obligated by current zoning.
He said he hopes that encourages other projects like his to move forward as a result of the zoning change.
Ryan Deto is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Ryan by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .