Thursday, May 19, 2022

Future of Former Smitty’s Building Still Uncertain

A rendering of the proposed future building at 208 S. Lamar Blvd.

Two weeks before Oxford’s restaurants and retails shops began shutting their doors due to the COVID-19 pandemic, residents watched as the building that housed several popular eateries was demolished due to structural damage.

Located at 208 South Lamar Boulevard, behind Square Books, the building had been home to a slew of restaurants over the years including Grundy’s, Smitty’s, 208 and more recently, Stella Restaurant and Bar.

In 2019, local restaurateur John Currence and the City Grocery Restaurant Group had presented plans to renovate the old building into a po’ boy restaurant. During those renovations in February of this year, contractors unearthed structural damage and the city approved demolishing the structure for safety concerns. The final demolition occurred in March, during spring break.

On Monday, the Courthouse Square Historic Preservation Commission reviewed plans for a new building proposed to be built on the same lot during a complimentary review, which means the commission gives guidance and feedback on the proposed plans but does not vote on whether or not to grant a Certificate of Appropriateness on the design.

Architect Corey Alger presented the plans for a three-story building that “may or may not” be used as a restaurant. Alger said the building was designed to be a commercial business on the bottom and perhaps residential or office space on the top floors.

The former 208 restaurant was demolished in March 2020. Photo by Alex Bridge

“The building is designed to be a permanent fixture on the Square,” Alger said.

When the commission inquired whether Currence was still planning on putting in a restaurant, property owner Tim Smith said it was still being discussed but that everyone is in a “very different place than we were six months ago.”

“Our desire is that a restaurant is ultimately there,” Smith said. “But we are trying to move forward.”

Currence could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Some of the commissioners felt the proposed design was “too massive” for the location, and that the design appeared to have too many “hard lines” and the proposed lighting might be too dramatic. However, several said they felt the design was “fine.”

The proposed plan, with or without modifications suggested by the commission, will be presented formally for approval at a future meeting of the commission.