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Restart of cafe planned

A local resident is working with the city Redevelopment Authority to restart cafe operations in the Altoona Transportation Center.

Evan Kephart, who moved to the city five years ago and who works in ministry, has dreamed of running a restaurant since he was a kid, he told the authority at a meeting Friday.

He proposes to take over space off the center waiting room previously leased by city Councilwoman Christie Jordan for her Zoe’s Cafe — the lease for which has been terminated.

Solicitor Elizabeth Benjamin will draw up a new lease, which will take account not only of the rent, but equipment — including the possible need for electrical upgrades to accommodate appliances like an electric convection oven.

Among menu items Kephart is planning are grilled cheese sandwiches.

“I love grilled cheese,” he said.

He hopes to be able to sell to Penn State Altoona students who take classes downtown, although he’ll need to rely on the general community as the basis for his clientele, he said.

Authority Chairman Richard Fiore agreed that students, whose presence downtown is seasonal, need to be no more than “icing on the cake.”

The authority is willing to rent to Kephart even though the city is planning capital projects for the Transportation Center.

Those are indefinite for now, and may take as long as a year to play out, according to Mayor Matt Pacifico, who is an authority member.

It will not be possible to have an exhaust fan hood in the cafe space, given the concrete walls of the Transportation Center, which was constructed with the city’s parking garage, officials said.

The lack of a hood will place limits on the kind of cooking equipment Kephart can install.

But Kephart said that won’t be a problem.

A lease should be ready for the authority to approve at its August meeting, officials said.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.

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