Pinery: Restaurant OK’d; variances to Planning Commission

       The Pinery at the Hill, which just opened at 775 W. Bijou St., is now free to offer its services as a restaurant.

During the Oct. 5 open house at the just-opened Pinery at the Hill... A view of the downtown from the deck that's accessible from the south side of the buildiing.
Westside Pioneer photo

       Meggan Herington, the city planner who has been covering the project, announced her administrative approval of the request Oct. 8. Under last year's city OK, the Pinery operation was limited to a wedding/ events center which could also service conferences or meetings between 7 a.m. and midnight. So the Pinery owners' argument was that it was virtually a restaurant already. In any case, the restaurant use will be separate, with weddings still taking precedence, the Pinery owners have said.
       Windsor Yellen, a co-owner of the business, said this week she was not sure how soon the restaurant function will begin, but estimated it would be “in the next 60 days,” which would allow time to plan the final details and hire the necessary staff.
       The restaurant aspect was part of a development plan amendment request to which Herington gave approval. Another element of the amendment is allowing the Pinery to build a six-foot chainlink fence around the property (to deter wild animals as well as transients).
       The owners also submitted requests to the city for two variances - one to turn a former duplex (located next to the Pinery property) into an in-house flower shop and another that's related to parking for it. Both will go to the City Planning Commission at its meeting Oct. 17, she said.
       Herington had stated in mid-September that the development plan would go to the commission as well, but that she was also waiting for a study predicting how traffic would be affected by the planned restaurant use. Her administrative approval states that she has since received an “updated traffic study [that] shows no overall impact on traffic to the area over the original approval.”
       Herington also noted that the restaurant use (limited to the second floor) will take up just 2,425 square feet of the building (compared with 8,000 square feet for the restaurant that had been on the site from the 1980s into the early aughts), and “ample parking is provided.”

During the Oct. 5 open house at the just-opened Pinery at the Hill... Guests enjoy food and drink in the Bella Vista Ballroom. According to a Pinery write-up, ballroom features include "alderwood wainscoting and gold leaf-branch sconces" on the walls and "iron chandeliers topped with petal-shaped shades."
Westside Pioneer photo

       The requests were submitted to the city in August, reflecting changes that the Pinery ownership decided they needed after almost a year of construction neared completion for the 21,000-square-foot facility on the 3½-acre property.
       The Pinery ownership have put the overall cost of the development at about $13 million. Yellen said the restaurant use is not seen as a way of helping recoup that. “A restaurant is a dicey thing,” she said. “But even if we just break even, it will give people a chance to enjoy the food and lovely view.”
       The latter comment was in reference to previous public meetings, when a few people from the surrounding neighborhood had complained that they would have to endure potential impacts from a large commercial venue on the hilltop but could not be customers there themselves (unless they were invited to a wedding or event).
       An open house at the venue attracted close to 1,000 people over about five hours Oct. 5, according to Yellen and Eric Allen, another of the owners. Allen said he was pleased at the outcome, with no parking problems or other issues. “It went smooth as silk,” he said.
       Most Pinery events would have fewer people than that, according to information presented at past meetings.
       The Pinery at the Hill is modeled after the original Pinery, which has operated in Black Forest since 2007.
       Yellen credited her husband Mitch for taking the initiative on the Pinery at the Hill. When first considered for a wedding center site in '07, “it was a derelict building that had been sitting empty for years,” she said.

Westside Pioneer article