BRIDGEPORT — Construction workers have been filing in and out of the old Ramova Grill this month, raising questions about what's going to replace the beloved shuttered diner.
Here's what's known: The building passed a series of preliminary inspections that paved the way for Kuk Cheung Chin to get a building permit in November. Records show the work taking place includes "interior remodeling for a new restaurant and two exit doors to lead out of the basement at the rear," and it appears that work is under way.
Here's what's not known: The background of the owner, who exactly is doing the work and what type of restaurant is planned for inside the vacant building, which includes several vacant adjacent storefronts and the upstairs boxing club, also empty.
The permits on the building at 3510 S. Halsted St. list Chin, of Canaryville, as the owner. But neither Chin's phone number nor the number for the project's contractor, Robert Garza, are in service.
City records show the renovation work is to be handled by the Bridgeport-based Tam's Construction, but a representative of that company said it is no longer doing work there.
The project's architect, Zisong Feng, owner of the Z. Feng Architect and Company, said he was bound by confidentiality agreements and couldn't divulge plans.
A representative from the South Loop Chamber of Commerce deferred questions on the project to Ald. James Balcer (11th), who said "I haven't heard anything. They haven't come to talk to me. I will walk down there myself to see what's going on," he said.
And when approached by a reporter earlier this week, a man wearing a dust mask at the famed diner's former entrance declined questions and slammed the door shut.
The Ramova Grill, a mainstay for its greasy spoon fare including fried liver and onions and a bowl of chili widely hailed as the city's best, closed in 2012 after an 83-year-run in Bridgeport.
Ever since, neighbors have been preserving the memory of the place.
Benton House, the neighborhood's social service resource agency, recently opened its "Ramova Room," complete with some of the old diner's furniture.
Meanwhile, the city in 2012 wrapped up a stabilization project on the next-door Ramova Theater, which closed in 1986.