Eli Kahn is OK with the The Whip Tavern's decision not to move into his East King Street development in Malvern Borough; he said he is 100-percent certain that other restaurants will move in.
But he takes strong exception to criticism of the mixed-use development's design as being ill-suited to a restaurant.
"There are no design flaws. Urban vertical development, where a building has retail on the first floor and office or residential space above, requires a different type of restaurateur mentality than, apparently, The Whip Tavern has," said Kahn, of 237 King Partners LLC, the firm developing the site.
His comments came in response to a Malvern Patch article published Monday, in which The Whip's owner, Casey Kulp, explained his reasons for backing out of plans to move to Malvern after signing a letter of intent last year.
Many Malvern residents were excited to hear that The Whip, a popular equestrian-themed pub in bucolic Unionville, was on track to open a second location in the borough. But Kulp, after visiting the construction site, said that the East King Street building lacked design elements necessary to open a restaurant, citing the ventilation system as one of his main concerns.
In a phone interview Tuesday, Kahn said the type of ventilation system that's been installed in the East King Street project is used in thousands of other restaurants operating on the first floors of multi-story buildings.
"The challenges of opening a restaurant in an urban environment are different than opening one in Unionville," Kahn said. "The [East King Street] building can and will accommodate restaurant uses on the first floor for restaurateurs who understand how to operate a business in an urban environment and construct a restaurant in an urban environment."
Both Kahn and Kulp agreed that announcing The Whip's interest in Malvern based on the letter of intent was premature. Kahn said he has had several meetings with other prospective lessees, but likely won't make any announcements until a lease has been signed.
The East King Street redevelopment project will add 190 luxury apartments, 25,000 square feet of retail space and about 5,000 square feet of office space to the east end of Malvern Borough. Kimberton Whole Foods is planning to open its fifth market location at the site.
The apartments are being marketed under the name Eastside Flats. The developers have previously said they expect tenants to be able to move in by late summer.