It took Tal Blevins almost 20 full minutes to yank an iron sconce from this rusted, steel wall, wrenching the anchor bolt as he did, and then hoisting it like a trophy after it came loose.
“You want it?” he asked.
They’re building Machete this week, the supper club-turned-restaurant, into this LoFi space as surely as a hermit crab occupies a new, fancier shell, buttressing a burgeoning entertainment district that now includes three restaurants, a grocery store, two breweries and a greenway, but was once a prime example of downtown sprawl.
Does anyone remember what used to be there?
There’s not much for him and the team — including culinary duo Kevin Cottrell and Lydia Greene, a ringer from Pittsburgh and a thoughtful guy with a beard — to do here at the former Crafted Street Food locale. After a new floor comes down, the kitchen will be good to go. There’s some painting to be done, including a new mural, a few cosmetic flourishes and some applied minimalism. And those sconces, of course. They’ve got to go.
But the space has many advantages.
With just a couple of years residency under his belt, Blevins is fairly new in town, so I point out some of the new features of LoFi that make his location particularly fortuitous.
“See those parking spots out there?” I’m mansplaining. “They’re new. We call that a ‘road diet.’ That’s gonna slow down traffic and—.”
“I’m gonna stop you right there,” Blevins says. “Did you know I have a master’s degree in urban design?”
I did not.
“Here’s the thing,” I say. “This little stretch where Eugene meets Battleground is supposed to be an express downtown loop, drawing traffic out of center city to the west and north.”
Now, I say, with the Greenway apartment complex, the ballpark and two more residential developments in the works just a block to the west, they are forced to convert the whole stretch into a pedestrian thoroughfare.
This is a joke only an urban planner can appreciate. Blevins obliges with a laugh. The he’s back at it, with the hammering and the yanking and the moving of heavy restaurant equipment. These neighborhoods don’t activate themselves.