The vacant lot north of Mason’s Paint & Body is the next step in Old Town Keller’s revitalization with a restaurant and retail building scheduled to open on the site next year.
The 6,300-square-foot masonry building is planned at the southeast corner of U.S. 377 and Vine Street. This comes just a few months after Keller finished $4.2 million in public improvements to the west side of Old Town Keller.
"The investment the city put into the west side has been the catalyst for development that’s going to spill over onto the east side of Main Street," said Trina Zais, director of economic development for the city of Keller.
Later this year, Keller will hire a consultant to look at making similar pedestrian, branding and utility improvements on the east side, which would tie into this new retail/restaurant project.
Developer James Mason, who owns the body shop next door, said he’s looking into several restaurant concepts from American comfort food to Italian.
"It’s definitely a sit-down restaurant," Mason said. "We’ve had several inquiries without even having put the project out into the open from various restaurant people."
Both chains and local restaurant owners have shown interest.
"It could be either but we always like the locals," Mason said. "We like to have that different fare that’s kind of unique."
A long time coming
Fixing people’s dents and dings has always been Mason’s passion.
He found he had a knack for auto body work while he was still attending Haltom High School.
"They said my work was better than the body shops," Mason said. "I enjoyed it. I was pretty good with my hands."
When he turned 21, he saw the building at U.S. 377 and Bates Street was available.
"I rented it that day and I’ve been here ever since," he said.
Over the next few decades, he and his wife Dena purchased the entire block from Bates Street north to Vine Street with the hope that they could someday develop the vacant lot.
They have seen businesses come and go and dreamed of a day when Old Town Keller would boom again.
"We’re one of the only businesses, one of only two or three, still owned by the same owner with the same name," Mason said.
He was on a committee in 1997 looking at ways to revitalize Old Town Keller.
It’s taken 20 years, but Mason said he’s happy to see the city investing millions in infrastructure and new businesses taking root. The Seven Mile Cafe opened recently and workers are remodeling the former La Casita Mexican Cuisine into the Station Patio Icehouse, scheduled to open in September.
"This started about two years ago and the building boom has gone crazy," Mason said.
Keeping the Old Town charm
Construction will start this October or November on the new restaurant and retail building and will take six to eight months to complete, depending on the weather, Mason said.
Then, the tenants will do their finish out and move in.
Most of the restaurants he’s talked to want between 2,500 to 4,000 square feet plus a 750-square-foot patio that will look out to U.S. 377. Then, he’s looking at boutique shops or a hair salon to occupy the other two spaces.
There will also be additional parking on the site.
Though it’s a new building, the red brick and glass storefronts will give it an old town charm so it won’t stick out, Mason said.
"We designed it with an old look and feel," he said.