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Chef/Owner Chandra Riccetti. Photo by Scott Nishimura

Scott Nishimura
snishimura@bizpress.net

The Bastion – a restaurant, catering service, and special events center tucked into the compound of the historic former Edna Gladney home on Hemphill Street in Fort Worth’s Near Southside Fairmount neighborhood – seems more of a hideaway than what its name suggests.

Its owners, Chandra and Richard Riccetti, have re-arranged the pieces of their plan to rehab the property since they bought it in 2009. But the ideas remain the same.

The Riccettis are finishing out the second phase of their big project – the renovation of one of four buildings into five apartments. The apartments – four 750-800-square-foot one-bedrooms and one 1,100-square-foot two-bedroom - will be available in early August, with two already tentatively rented.

“We want to do this right,” Richard Riccetti said. “The next time these buildings are remodeled, I want to be dead. It’s a historic project. This remodel has to last at least 30, 40, 50 years.”

The property dates to 1918, when Gladney launched it as a home for unwed mothers. The Riccettis bought it from the Salvation Army.

The Riccettis, who live just down the street in Fairmount, bought the property for cash, and have been using remodeling loans to complete renovations. They also obtained waivers of city fees because the property is in a Fort Worth neighborhood empowerment zone, and a 10-year freeze on their city property tax valuation by investing in a historic property.

First phase was the rehab of the 1964 “commercial building” as kitchen and dining hall for private events, culinary classes, and chef’s dinners Chef Chandra Riccetti runs.

Besides the apartments, the second phase, which the Riccettis financed on a loan from Southside Bank in Fort Worth, includes new fencing, parking lot improvements, and potential changes to the dining hall.

That could include knocking out a wall facing a courtyard and the restaurant’s organic garden, and replacing it with French doors to allow patrons to move freely between the interior and exterior spaces.

“That depends on the budget,” Richard Riccetti said, declining to say what the couple paid for the property or have in it.

The rehab of the 4,300-square-foot apartment building includes minor adjustments to the interior, which originally designed with a communal space and apartments.

The couple gutted much of the interior and is installing all-new utilities, finishes and appliance packages. Original hardwood floors remain, having been protected by old carpet the couple is removing.

The rents – $850 per month for the one-bedrooms and $1,250 for the two-bedroom – include water and trash, laundry, and wireless internet, an inexpensive addition to The Bastion’s existing Wi-Fi network, Riccetti said. The Riccettis separated the electricity in the rehab, making the units individually metered, and that is not included in the rents.

The 4,443-square-foot “manor building” fronting the boulevard at Lilac and Hemphill streets will be the next phase, the Riccettis said.

“We will probably get started on that spring or fall 2015,” Richard Riccetti said.

Making that more difficult: the couple has been unable to find 15 Spanish-style tiles they need to repair the roof.

“It was an odd run of tiles in 1924,” Riccetti said.

The couple’s original plan for the manor building was a restaurant. The use will likely be office or event space, and single-use, he said.

“The expected need right now is office space,” Riccetti said. “As Hemphill comes back, office space will be dear.”

The medical district’s growth, Fairmount’s rejuvenation, Hemphill’s impending direction to downtown, city incentives, and two city urban villages that set standards for design and other aspects such as setbacks are combining to make Hemphill attractive, Riccetti said.

“The values on Hemphill are still good from an investment standpoint,” he said.

The couple is using a fourth, 4,324-square-foot apartment building as storage. Its long-term use will likely be as a workshop and greenhouse on the first floor, with residential on the second, Riccetti said.

In rezoning the property when they bought it, the couple agreed to no more than eight residential units on the site, a full city block. As part of the commercial building rehab, they built a 1,500-square-foot apartment on the second floor of that building.

Meanwhile, Chandra Riccetti, who left her job as executive pastry chef at Fort Worth’s Worthington Hotel to start The Bastion, continues to work on expanding the food service side of the business.

In addition to privare events like meetings, cocktail receptions and weddings, The Bastion runs culinary classes for up to six people, at $90 per person. Students prepare three courses, Riccetti adds another two, and the class sits down for a five-course dinner at the end.

The Bastion also runs one or two BYOB chef’s dinners per month, and periodic team-building classes for up to 35.

On Sundays in July and August, The Bastion will offer famlly-style prix fixe dinners, at $40 per adult and $10 for children 8 and under, with Southern, Italian, French, and California themes.

“All of the mom and pop stores are closed (on Sundays), and everybody has to revert to the chains,” Chandra Riccetti said.

Depending on how well the Sunday dinners do, The Bastion may continue them past the summer, she said.

Also starting in July, The Bastion will start Tuesday and Wednesday lunchtime classes. Tuesdays’ will be on technique, and Wednesdays’ will be food preparation basics.

The Bastion wants to continue to grow the private events side of its business, she said.

They’re considering removing a stage in the dining hall and replacing it with a portable stage to increase seating capacity. The Bastion’s largest seated event has been for about 100 people, and largest indoor-outdoor event about 130.

“Everybody who’s done a private event here has changed the space dramatically,” she said. “All we saw before was an auditorium.”

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