Cafe Mercato will be the first of four new restaurants in Lowry's Hangar 2 "dining district"

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A development group broke ground today on the first of four restaurants planned for two new buildings outside of Hangar 2, the historic building in the Lowry neighborhood that once held Air Force planes when the area was a military base. Hangar 2 Partners -- a partnership between Larimer Associates and Hartman-Ely Investments -- is calling the mixed-used development the "Lowry Dining District."

See also: Larimer Associates will open the Lowry Beer Garden in the new Hangar project

Café Mercato will be an Italian eatery from Giancarlo Macchiarella, the executive chef-owner of Locanda del Borgo. Expected to open in the fall of 2014, Cafe Mercato will feature shareable Italian dishes and an expansive wine "library."

Hangar 2 itself already houses several businesses, including the Lowry Beer Garden, the Laughing Latte coffee shop and a large storage company.

"Hangar 2 is a special project for us, and we're very proud of it," Larimer Associates chief operating officer Joe Vostrejs told a crowd at the ground-breaking that included Mayor Michael Hancock. "We are bringing a new building to life while preserving history."

Eventually, the project will include four restaurants -- including fine dining, ethnic cuisine and a neighborhood pub -- all with large patios, landscaping and public art, Vostrejs added. When it's complete, it will create up to 200 jobs.

The project was designed by Semple Brown Design and is being built by Rand Construction. The builders received $2 million in tax increment financing from Denver Urban Renewal Authority, which is run by the city.

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