VALPARAISO | After another attempt to operate a restaurant at 454 Greenwich St. has apparently come to an end, the owners plan to convert the restaurant space into two apartments.
The site of the original Greek's Pizzeria, the building was bought by Project Neighbors 11 years ago. Paul Schreiner, board president of Project Neighbors, said the group wanted to generate economic activity south of Lincolnway at that time and found a chef, Felix Cardenas, willing to take the risk. Maria Elena's was the result.
The restaurant thrived for several years before a number of factors, including the boom of downtown restaurants, combined to end its run, Schreiner said. Project Neighbors found another family willing to try with Gabriella's, which offered a similar combination of American, Mexican and Italian cuisine.
Schreiner said it now appears Gabriella's will close sometime after the holidays, and the nonprofit organization is preparing to move in a new direction if that does occur. Schreiner is scheduled to appear before the city's Site Review Committee on Jan. 8 to discuss plans to convert the 1,300-square-foot restaurant space into two apartments.
"We still have a mortgage on the building, so we want to be ready to re-establish its use and keep the cash flow," he said. The building has two apartments on the upper level.
"They will be nice, affordable units," Schreiner said. "It could be such that one could be a transition for someone coming out of a homeless shelter with rent of about $300 and the other could be closer to market rent of $500 or $600 a month."
He said it would take five to six weeks to complete the renovation. The group also is on the agenda for the city's Board of Zoning Appeals because of the change of use. Parking, which was a problem for the restaurant, also will be an issue for the apartments.