Richmond has a food hall. It has sports bars and beer gardens. It has miniature golf, duckpin bowling and indoor simulator golf.
But it doesn’t have all those things under one roof.
A group of investors led by Basim Mansour, president of HVAC company Michael & Son, is looking to change that with The Park at RVA, a multi-entertainment venue that’s filling 55,000 square feet of space in the Michael & Son complex at 1407 Cummings Drive.
Marketed as “an indoor wonderland,” the venue is to include an 18-lane duckpin bowling alley, an 18-hole mini golf course, three bars, a food hall with six restaurant concepts, a beer garden-style area with 30 self-pour taps, three golf simulator rooms, a 200-person banquet hall, and an auditorium for live music, comedy acts and corporate functions.
Construction for the venue got underway in December, and the group is aiming to open it this fall. Along with the interior upfit, a two-story addition that will form The Park’s entrance is taking shape on the southern side of the complex, which hugs the interstate between Feed More and Diversity Thrift east of The Diamond.
Over a year in the making, the venue was first envisioned as a rooftop beer garden with a dog park, event space and other amenities. But when the second-floor space, previously a Cocentrix call center, went dark over the course of the pandemic, Mansour said he saw an opportunity to solve a problem.
“I lost a 45,000-square-foot office user, and obviously COVID is changing the world now with the aftermath of it. I couldn’t fathom getting another 45,000-square-foot office user for my space. So, now I’m left with this situation, after a year of trying to lease it up: what can I do here?” Mansour said.
“I just happened to be with my buddy in Miami, we were on my balcony just drinking and smoking a hookah, and I was thinking about doing a food hall,” he said. “Just like any great idea, it all starts over drinking. This one was no exception.”
While the rooftop was nixed due to timing and cost, Mansour, 52, said The Park will be unlike anything else in Richmond.
“It went through a thousand renditions to get to here,” he said. “I love great food, but I also love customer service, and this thing is my world: it’s about customer service, customer experience, great food, entertainment.”
Guiding the effort is Orcun Turkay, the group’s managing partner who Mansour enlisted as vice president of operations. Turkay has two decades of experience in hospitality, having previously been a corporate food-and-beverage director for Shaner Hotels, a hospitality group with dozens of Marriott- and Hilton-branded properties.
Connected a decade ago through a mutual friend who’s one of the other partners in the group, Mansour brought Turkay up from Florida specifically to head up The Park.
“To be successful in this business, it has to have exceptional customer service, and Orcun is the best guy for this spot,” Mansour said. “We assembled a fantastic team, and it’s a team effort. The business is built on the head and shoulders of Orcun and his experience.”
A native of Turkey, Turkay, 38, said he and Mansour took a tour of entertainment venues and food halls across the country and didn’t find anything quite like The Park.
“There’s nothing like it in the country. There’s definitely nothing like it in Richmond,” Turkay said. “It’s a very unique project, and we’re very excited to get it going and get it open.”
Filling the top-floor space above regional high school CodeRVA, The Park is centered by a 60-foot-long main bar that Turkay said could be the biggest in the state.
“I don’t know for a fact, but it’s rumored to be the largest bar in Virginia,” he said.
Giant flat-screen TVs will be mounted on walls at opposite ends of the bar, and additional TVs will show a variety of sports events – including, Turkay emphasized, this fall’s FIFA World Cup.
Alongside the main bar, 18 duckpin bowling lanes line the wall opposite the entrance, where patrons will be greeted by two park-style swings after taking one of two 20-person elevators up from the parking lot. A stairwell is on the other side of the entrance.
The swings are central to The Park’s branding, which features a logo and other designs created by local marketing agency Release the Hounds. The agency also is assisting with the naming of the food hall’s restaurant concepts, including names such as “Bowl Mama” and “Chick Flick.”
The food-and-beverage concepts, all managed in-house, will include a smash burgers and pizza station, the aforementioned food bowls and Southern-style fried chicken stations, a tacos spot, and an Asian cuisine concept serving sushi, bao buns and banh mi sandwiches. Rounding out the six concepts is a sweets station with ice cream and coffee, desserts, boozy shakes and brunch items.
Heading up the concepts is executive chef Robert Oatley, who Turkay said has worked for Emeril Lagassi and Wolfgang Puck and most recently was at the Greater Richmond Convention Center.
“He has tremendous experience,” Turkay said of Oatley. “He spent almost 20 years in Las Vegas, opened many casinos out there.”
The beer garden area will feature 30 self-pour taps with several local and regional craft beers. The bar areas also include a DJ booth and a karaoke-party room that can be rented. Turkay said the entire venue will be able to seat over 500 people.
At opposite ends of the floor is the 18-hole mini golf course, which Turkay said is being designed and manufactured in England, and the three simulation golf rooms, one of which can be closed off and rented for private parties.
Also rentable is a banquet space that can fit up to 200 people, and an auditorium that will serve as a comedy club and small concert hall will be able to seat over 200 and can be rented for corporate meetings and other events.
“It’s all park-related,” Turkay said of the venue’s overall theme. “At the end of the day, what we’re creating here is an indoor wonderland. It’s going to be a mainly adults-driven concept, but I see us hosting a lot of families over the weekends. We’re thinking about opening earlier on the weekends so families and kids can play putt-putt, duckpin bowling; fathers can enjoy virtual golf.”
Operating as The Park RVA LLC, the group is serving as its own general contractor on the project, which Turkay estimated at about $7 million. He said the group is financing the project themselves, with Mansour the primary backer. Mansour will also retain ownership of the space.
Los Angeles-based Ellis Adams Group is designing the interiors and helping to build the food-and-beverage program. Turkay said he’s worked with the firm before, including when he was general manager of Vaso, a rooftop bar in Ohio.
Other firms involved in The Park include Global Custom Furniture in Cleveland. London-based Smith & Devil designed the mini golf course. Hamid Moumni of Falls Church-based Buildix Inc. is the project architect.
Turkay said they’re talking to Richmond-based vendors for the coffee and ice cream offerings, and he said Release the Hounds is helping to line up local artists for indoor and outdoor murals that are planned. He said Richmond artist Ed Trask has been enlisted for murals on the building’s exterior and a silo structure beside the venue entrance.
Turkay said exterior lighting will be added to the building, though he said The Park would not involve signage the size of Michael & Son’s signs. The group has been quietly teasing The Park with an ad on an adjacent electronic billboard. A website is staged, and social media accounts are active.
Turkay said The Park will employ about 100 people. He said the goal is to be open seven days a week, from 4 p.m. to midnight on weekdays and extended hours on weekends. Saturdays and Sundays could have earlier openings for brunch, he said.
As a supplement to The Park, Mansour recently converted several floors of The Tower, the six-story former Wyeth building that’s part of the Michael & Son complex, into apartments to be used as short-term rentals, including three-, six- and nine-month stays. Two floors of the building remain dormitories for students enrolled in the company’s trade school.
“I’m super-excited for Richmond. I know Richmond has always taken a long time for things to happen, but the stuff that’s going on in Richmond is so exciting, and I’m very proud and lucky to be a small part of it,” Mansour said.
Of Palestinian descent, Mansour took on and built the business that was started by his late father. Headquartered in Alexandria, Michael & Son employs about 1,000 people companywide and over 100 in Richmond. The Cummings Drive location includes corporate offices, a call center and warehouse operations.
“I’m very thankful that Richmond’s embraced me and my company, and I’m praying to God that they’ll embrace The Park as well,” he said. “I think it’s going to be a great product, and Orcun is a great guy and he’s going to give great service and he’s going to make people happy.”
Added Turkay, “What we want to accomplish here is one of the best food-and-beverage experiences that the city has to offer. We want to make sure that this is done well at a point where this is the spot to be.”