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Developer aims to bring rail car restaurant to Railyard

November 13, 2018

A central Florida luxury home developer wants to install a restored historic railroad car in the Santa Fe Railyard for use as a restaurant next to retail spaces in retrofitted shipping containers arranged in an open-air environment.

Mitch Menaker has signed a letter of intent with the Santa Fe Railyard Community Corp. to develop the complex next to the Warehouse 21 building and north of the Railyard Flats apartments on the last available parcel for lease in the north Railyard.

This is the second railroad car project for Menaker’s All Aboard Dining Cars Inc. A sister project Menaker developed in Florida is smaller in size “but the same general concept,” he said in a telephone interview.

After the 1927 Pullman is restored, it would be transported to the 10,000-square-foot Railyard site at 1616 Paseo de Peralta via flatbed trucks.

Menaker, 62, is no stranger to Santa Fe. He said he has been visiting the city for 30 years, owns property in Las Campanas and plans to move here permanently in early 2020.

Menaker, president and CEO of Menaker Development, has developed and built residential and commercial projects in Arizona and Florida for 35 years. He began in the mid-1980s in Phoenix and Scottsdale, Ariz., where he became a designer of adobe structures, according to the Menaker Development website.

Menaker said the idea of a railroad dining car, inspired in part by a trip he and his wife took to Alaska four years ago where they dined on a moving train, is a natural fit for the Railyard. “People will come to eat here, people will come to take photos,” he said. “Eat, drink and shop and take photographs.”

Although he expects the restored rail car to be a central attraction, he expects converted 20- and 40-foot shipping containers nearby could become coffee shops, boutiques or perhaps pizza purveyors.

The proposed complex would not be the first to utilize shipping containers locally. “We already have one building in the Railyard built out of shipping containers,” said Richard Czoski, executive director of the nonprofit Railyard Community Corp., which manages the city-owned property. That would be Molecule Design, which sells modern and contemporary lighting and furniture in the Baca Street section of the Railyard.

When asked what type of restaurant he envisions for the vintage dining car, Menaker said, “I don’t have anything specific in mind. We are looking for a local chef with an existing restaurant or a great new concept.”

He has an agreement with the Railyard managers that he won’t bring in any kind of national chain restaurant. The Railyard master plan includes a preference for local businesses, Czoski said. “That will be a requirement in the lease,” he said.

Several months of due diligence are still required, and no lease has been signed yet, Menaker said. His goal is to open the complex next summer.

Menaker has retained Chicago Technical Media Corp. for design work and to produce 3D renderings and video work.

Keller Williams Realty/Santa Fe will handle leasing and management of the property, with Bunny Terry or Paul Duran serving as the primary contacts.

“Considering it’s the last parcel, we think it’s a very interesting project for that site,” Czoski said. “It will be the first project in New Mexico to incorporate a rail car. It’s entirely appropriate for the Railyard.”

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