COLUMBIA — The Taj Mahal Indian Cuisine restaurant plans to lease two of the three new retail spaces opening on the ground floor of the city-owned parking garage at Fifth and Walnut.
Taj Mahal owner Susheel Gill said he's been interested in relocating to the new retail space on the ground level of the garage since the project started.
"Hopefully in the new space we'll flourish," Gill said. "I don't mean money-wise, but I'll finally be able to do what I've been wanting to do with the restaurant."
His current space has a tiny kitchen with only a four-burner stove, and Gill has felt held back. He's been looking to expand for the past eight years. Finally, Gill said, he's found the perfect place to do so.
"My dream has been on hold for the last few years," Gill said. "I stopped advertising eight years ago because the kitchen couldn't support many guests."
The move is only across the street, and that is what appeals to Gill the most. With an established downtown business, he believes the transition will be convenient for customers.
Barbara Buffaloe, sustainability manager for the city, said the restaurant is in the process of finalizing a lease. The Columbia City Council has called for bids to prepare the three bays of the ground floor commercial area at the garage for new businesses.
The Taj Mahal will take two of the spaces. The third space has not been leased, but Buffaloe said it would be ideal for a small office.
The in-fill work will cost an estimated $505,927 and will be paid from the Fifth and Walnut garage construction account, according to a report to the city council.
"We’re hoping construction is done this summer with all the spaces filled and that it might increase the vibrancy downtown with more foot traffic," Buffaloe said.