Marco Franca is placing a $4 million bet on downtown Lakeland by buying a century-old building overlooking Munn Park and converting it to a “gastropub” serving cuisine of his native Brazil.
The business startup consultant is planning a December opening for Posto 9, a three-level venue at 215 E. Main St. that will include a lounge and dining room at street level, an event space on the second floor and Lakeland’s first rooftop lounge.
Franca just completed the $525,000 purchase of the building, which most recently housed Preservation Alley, and his cost estimates include $2.5 million for construction.
He’s planning a menu that reflects the full range of Brazilian cuisine, not just the steakhouse fare many Americans associate with the South American country. “Many different cultures immigrated to Brazil,” he said. “There are influences from all over.”
A news release describes the menu as “culinary creations inspired by the best farm-to-table seasonal foods that Florida has to offer” and “grass-fed beef, cage free and organic chicken and pork, fresh seafood, and produce from area farmers.”
The restaurant’s 14,000 square feet has room for 90 diners, 170 people in the two lounges (The rooftop space will be named Caipirinha Bar after Brazil’s signature cocktail) and 125 in the event area.
Both lunch and dinner will be served, he said, and the rooftop lounge will serve as a coffee bar during the daytime, complete with wifi and power outlets at each table. An elevator is being added near the front of the building.
Downtown development chief Julie Townsend sees Posto 9 as another sign that downtown Lakeland is becoming a 24/7 destination. “We’re always looking for a non-chain restaurant with a unique dining experience to set ourselves apart,” she said.
The name Posto 9 is both a reference to Rio de Janeiro and a tribute to the sense of community Franca says he feels in Lakeland. Posto 9 is the designation for the lifeguard station that provided the setting for Tom Jobim’s classic 1960s song, “The Girl From Ipanema.”
“People mingle there,” he said. “You don’t lay on the beach. You stand and converse. There’s a sense of community.”
Plans drawn by architect Marlon Lynn emulate the original design of the building, constructed in 1905 or 1912 (reports vary) as Central State Bank. The current recessed entry will be eliminated so that the front of the building at street level will be flush with the second story again.
The design has been approved in concept by the city Historic Preservation Board/Design Review Committee, with final details scheduled for presentation at the group’s April 28 meeting. (See the historic preservation report below.)
“We’ve met with (City Manager) Tony Delgado and the mayor. The city has been very supportive and helpful. We’re making sure we’re meeting and exceeding the guidelines,” Franca said.
More coverage: The Ledger
Historic Preservation Report