PROJEKT 2.0: Craft brewer has big plans for big new riverside space
After a protracted effort to secure a new home for his brewery and taproom, it would be understandable if William Glass just wanted to sit back and enjoy a celebratory pint of one of the Brewing Projekt’s unique beers. But the Eau Claire entrepreneur isn’t the type to rest on his laurels, especially considering that he’s aiming to move his brewing and serving operation to its new site, 1807 N. Oxford Ave., by September.
“We’ll be able to make a heckuva lot more beer in here than we can across the street.” – William Glass, on the new home for the Brewing Projekt
Just a few days after finally inking a deal with the City of Eau Claire’s Redevelopment Authority, which owns the vacant industrial property, Glass led an impromptu tour of the sprawling facility. “Getting in here we’ll have twice as much space at the drop of a hat,” Glass said, snapping his fingers. And he was just referring to one cavernous, 8,000-square-foot portion of the building, which was most recently occupied by Silvermine Stone Co. By fall, when the lease expires on the Brewing Projekt’s current home at 2000 N. Oxford Ave., Glass plans to transform this space into a new, expanded brewing facility and taproom.
However, fans of Gunpowder IPA and WisCoast Ale shouldn’t get too comfortable in the space, because the plans Glass has are much grander. Once the Brewing Projekt has settled into the new location, further renovation will begin on the 50,000-square-foot former industrial complex. Several parts of the building – which has been everything from a furniture factory to a meat-processing facility – will be torn down. Some additions will be built, including a loading dock on the north end, a riverfront patio on the east, and a permanent space for the brewing equipment where an enormous walk-in freezer now stands. Finally, the original part of the building – a three-story brick structure dating to the 1880s – will be transformed into a permanent taproom.
Considering the building doesn’t currently have heat or electricity, it’s hard to envision the final product. Soon enough, though, the spray-painted graffiti and assorted refuse will be replaced by tables and chairs overlooking stainless-steel brewing equipment. Ultimately, the second floor will be removed from the three-story part of the building, creating a spacious area with a vaulted ceiling where patrons will enjoy specialty beers as they watch them being brewed. Meanwhile, the sunlit third floor will be converted into a banquet hall-style space, which will be ideal for weddings and other private events, Glass said.
One the permanent taproom is complete, the temporary taproom will be converted into space for canning and storage. In its current 3,200-square-foot location, Glass explained, the Brewing Projekt faces serious production bottlenecks because there simply isn’t enough room to package or store beer. However, with greatly expanded space and equipment, Glass expects to increase production fivefold in the coming year. “We’ll be able to make a heckuva lot more beer in here than we can across the street,” Glass said.
In addition to a spacious, ground-level patio, the brewery will feature a 5,000-square-foot rooftop deck. Both will overlook the Chippewa River and a new bike trail the city plans to build between the High Bridge and Madison Street this year. That project will include the removal of some of the trees along the riverbank, Glass explained, which will allow for great views of Phoenix Park, the Forest Street Community Gardens, and even the hydroelectric dam upriver.
The final development and lease agreements for the building were hammered out at a special meeting of the Redevelopment Authority on Feb. 23, which concluded nearly a year of sometimes contentious negotiations between the parties. Most recently, Glass and the RDA disagreed over who would be responsible for environmental cleanup on the site. However, even after that issue was resolved – the city will cover $30,000 of the estimated $55,000 cost of removing asbestos – the parties had to resolve a last-minute disagreement over the exact size and shape of the property Glass was purchasing. Finally, they settled on a size (exactly 50,000 square feet) and a price ($250,000). “I wasn’t excited,” Glass said. “I’d like to say that I was happy, but the main emotion was just relief.”
City leaders expressed similar sentiments. “It feels really good to have that first project going into the Cannery District,” city economic development director Mike Schatz told the Leader-Telegram, referring to the riverside neighborhood that the city plans to redevelop. Now, with the Brewing Projekt as an anchor, the work to revive this part of Eau Claire’s center can proceed.
Learn more at thebrewingprojekt.com, or search for the Brewing Projekt on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.