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Larkinville seeks to attract visitors in off-season

Architects of the Larkin District's success creating a summer destination are planning for the rest of the year, making moves to attract visitors during the colder months and on weekends.
The Larkin Development Group won approval from the City Planning Board today to move ahead with plans to renovate a 19th century building at Swan and Emslie streets and open a bar and restaurant there. Meanwhile, a top Larkin official said plans for a holiday-themed after-work event are under way.
The summer's "Live at Larkin" series on Wednesday evenings drew about 2,000 visitors every week, and those shaping the burgeoning district hope to continue the momentum. Another after-work event featuring holiday music and food is being planned for the first Friday in December, said Leslie Zemsky, who has taken on Larkinville's "director of fun" title.
"How do we do Live at Larkin when it's not a warm summer day?" she said.
Meanwhile, the Grill, an outdoor dining option that serves sliders and Polish sausage, will be open in the evenings on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays as long as the weather cooperates, she said.
Plans for the new restaurant, including hours, a name and the type of food that will be served, are in the early stages.
The former Swan Lounge is expected to open in late May or early June, and could aim to attract visitors on Saturday nights.
"This has been the logical next step for us," Zemsky said, adding that the company thinks the demand is there for another dining option.
In addition to the outdoor grill, which also serves lunch on weekdays, Larkinville already has a sandwich truck and the Filling Station, an enclosed restaurant.
While the summer series attracted downtown office workers, people from the neighborhood and others on a weeknight, Larkin Square is largely not a weekend destination, but a bar and restaurant with expanded hours could change that.
Prior to the Swan Lounge, the building at 716 Swan St. housed a hotel and a grocery store. It was built in 1885 and has 3,975 square feet spread over two stories.
Upstairs from the restaurant, two apartments, taking the place of several former units, will be developed.
Other than a 1,730-square-foot addition to the building, which will provide an entrance for upstairs renters and will closely match the existing exterior, the look of the building will not change, said Cheryl Henry, a project manager with Young and Wright Architectural.
A Larkin company, Mill Race Commons, purchased the property last October for $245,000.