By ALISSA SCOTT
Two new businesses have rounded out the local shops lining Bridge Street, an area that benefited from a construction projection completed two years ago.
Girard's Bar & Grill celebrated its grand reopening Thursday afternoon. It closed when owner Ray Gumuka left the area, but now that he's returned, he has decided to give it another go.
"I left the area for a while and was happy to be able to come back and be able to do it again," Gumuka said.
The $740,000 neighborhood construction project, completed in November 2011, included upgrades and improvements to new curbs, catch basins, sidewalks and lighting, part of the Via Ponte project.
The street, which runs from the Amsterdam Castle to the Mohawk River, obtained a new public parking area and, to the satisfaction of many car axles, the street was paved.
The Via Ponte project proposed to turn the Bridge Street neighborhood into a cultural destination with a mix of business and residential occupants, an enhanced waterfront with a cultural center or performance space.
"We're really proud of what's happening on Bridge Street," Mayor Ann Thane said. "There seems to be a re-emergence of life there."
Gumuka said Girard's closed to accommodate menu changes and light remodeling to further distinguish the pub from others on the South Side. Before it closed, it served larger entrees, but now it's switched to smaller grill items like burgers and sandwiches.
"There's many places that have good dinners on the South Side, so we felt the pub menu complimented the bar nicely," he said.
Also new to the neighborhood is the Southside Food Market, across from the Dolci bakery.
Phil Rossignol, a part owner of the Italian imports market, said the shop opened about two months ago. Rossignol said he's glad to see the rate at which the street is developing and the numbers of community members that it's attracting.
"I can't get over the foot traffic and the bike traffic," Rossignol said. "It's unbelievable. They'll stop in to get bread or cheese for the trip."
The food market sells quality meats and cheeses imported from Italy and prepared foods from its next-door neighbor L'ultimo, an Italian restaurant. They also have fudge-dipped apples, Italian sushi (which replaces seaweed in traditional sushi with salted ham) and seasonal soups.
Rossignol said the street really is returning to its roots.
"It's like it used to be in the '50s and '60s," he said. "But, with a modern twist, so you're really getting the best of both worlds."
These businesses cropping up are just the start of a completely revitalized city, Thane said.
"It's extremely important to note that it's just beginning," Thane said. "We are planning for parking strategies to accommodate visitors that are anticipated the Mohawk Valley Gateway Overlook. We are anticipating further commercialization of the corridor and that this will connect to what's happening on the north shore along Main Street."
The next couple of years, she said, "will be very exciting."