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BlackFinn, Vida Restaurants Slated For Riverfront Development

By J. Elias O'Neal, posted Jul 23, 2012

Two new upscale restaurants are expected to grace the shorelines of the Cape Fear River by next summer.

Larry Rizzo, a partner with Wilmington-based USA InvestCo who is overseeing the development’s food and beverage component, said Monday that Charlotte-based restaurants BlackFinn and Vida Mexican Kitchen y Cantina will soon anchor part of the Northern Riverfront Marina and Hotel development in downtown Wilmington.

BlackFinn is a restaurant that bills its menu as a contemporary style of classic American fare made using local ingredients, while Vida Mexican Kitchen y Cantina offers authentic Mexican cuisines made with fresh and local ingredients.

Rizzo said the announcement of the two new restaurants ends more than a two-month process of vetting establishments that would be suitable for the development.

“It was a fairly intense process,” Rizzo said. “In the end, we chose BlackFinn and Vida because they both offer a great product. It’s affordable, and we feel both have a regional presence  … A lot of people in the Carolinas know of them, and we’re very happy that they will be apart of the development.”

Rizzo said development officials are currently working with the Charlotte-based chains on architecture and design plans in an effort to make their addition to the Northern Riverfront development more cohesive with its more modern surroundings.

He said pending design and city permitting, construction could begin on the two new restaurants by the end of the year, with openings set by the summer 2013.

“We feel it’s something that Wilmington as a whole will be very excited about,” Rizzo said.

The announcement of the two restaurants is part of a bevy of activity that continues on the site.

Plans call for transforming the old shipping and rail channel of the former Atlantic Railroad Company into a 35-acre development expected to include a 10-story Hotel Indigo, a 204-slip marina, restaurants and retail space.

The Northern Riverfront Marina and Hotel development is being financed by EB5 investors through USA InvestCo.

Officials are also in ongoing negotiations with city officials to sell a portion of the development’s property for a proposed multi-purpose stadium development that could house an Atlanta Braves franchise by 2014.

Wilmington voters will decide whether to approve general obligation bonds to pay for the baseball stadium’s development, which could cost up to $42 million – although city council members and officials say they expect the amount to be less.

Rizzo said more new venues could soon dot what some developers and brokers are calling “Uptown Wilmington.”

“We have pad space for four to five restaurants … we’ve got two coming on board,” he said, referring to BlackFinn and Vida. “This is such an important element of the development, and we continue to make great progress.”

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