If you’re so inclined, now’s the time to crack open a cold one to celebrate the deal reached Wednesday between the Brewing Projekt and the City of Eau Claire’s Redevelopment Authority. After nearly two hours of closed-door deliberations and negotiations, the RDA agreed to sell a vacant industrial building at 1807 Oxford Ave. to the fast-growing Eau Claire brewery. Brewing Projekt President Will Glass says he hopes to move the business into the new building by the end of the year.
The sale – which the parties still have 60 days to finalize – comes after months of negotiation between the brewery and the RDA, discussions that hinged on both the property’s potential sale price and its future assessed value.
“I’m just really excited to be moving forward,” Glass said outside City Hall shortly after the RDA’s unanimous voice vote. In recent weeks, Glass had encouraged Brewing Projekt backers to contact RDA members to voice their support for the sale. In addition, an estimated 500 supporters visited the brewery/taproom for a rally Friday evening. “I have to assume the public support we got had an impact,” Glass said.
The Brewing Projekt, which is currently in a much smaller facility just down the street at 2000 Oxford Ave., will purchase about 50,000 square feet of property, including the building, for $250,000.
The Brewing Projekt, which is currently in a much smaller facility just down the street at 2000 Oxford Ave., will purchase about 50,000 square feet of property, including the building, for $250,000. The RDA – a city committee designed to foster urban renewal – bought the property, which was most recently occupied by Silvermine Stone Co., for $415,000 last year. It lies in the so-called Cannery District, a swath of former industrial property along the west bank of the Chippewa River, roughly across from downtown.
The agreement includes a stipulation that the remodeled facility will be assessed at $2.5 million by Jan. 1, 2020, and $3 million by Jan. 1, 2022. Previously, Glass had said the RDA had sought an assessed valuation of $7 million to $8 million. However, the original negotiations were over a larger piece of property – approximately 117,000 square feet, or about 2.7 acres. Now the RDA potentially will be able to sell that property to another developer.
Supporters of the Brewing Projekt crowded a small hearing room at City Hall for the meeting. Several spoke in favor of the project, including Mike Rindo, who serves on several city committees and is a UW-Eau Claire official (although he stressed he was speaking on his own behalf). “Here’s a potential anchor for the Cannery District,” Rindo said, comparing the impact the brewery could have on the neighborhood to the role the Royal Credit Union headquarters had on the Phoenix Park redevelopment a decade ago. Efforts like the Brewking Projekt are important to boosting Eau Claire’s quality of life, Rindo said.
Glass said relocating to a larger space will allow the brewery to boost output to keep up with heavy demand for its unique beers. Increased production will allow the Brewing Projekt to sell wholesale rights for its brews as well as to expand distribution to other parts of the state.
During his presentation to the RDA during the public portion of the meeting, Glass said relocating to a larger space will allow the brewery to boost output to keep up with heavy demand for its unique beers, which include WISCoast, GunPowder IPA, Liberty or Death, and dozens more. Increased production will allow the Brewing Projekt to sell wholesale rights for its brews (which in turn will help pay for the new facility) as well as to expand distribution to other parts of the state.
Glass said the remodeled and rebuilt facility will include an open-air brewery (allowing visitors to see the impressive array of stainless steel equipment involved in the brewing process), a taproom, and likely a restaurant (although details on that element are still up in the air). There would also be outdoor seating overlooking the nearby Chippewa River and a trail that the city intends to build along it.
Before the vote, City Attorney Stephen Nick told the RDA that “there’s been a considerable disconnect on price” between the parties, but he added he was pleased by the Brewing Projekt’s willingness to trim the amount of property it was seeking.
Several members of the committee echoed this sentiment, saying their negotiations have been about ensuring the highest-value use of the land, not about blocking the brewery’s expansion.
“This isn’t anti-brewpub. It isn’t anti-you, Mr. Glass,” said RDA member Jeff Halloin. Instead, Halloin said, it was a matter of making the project’s math work. “It’s going to come down to a leap of faith,” he added.
After the vote, a relieved Glass acknowledged that the expansion is a gamble, but expressed confidence in the Brewing Projekt’s continued success. “We need infrastructure improvements to continue on the trajectory that we’re on right now,” he said.
“We’re taking a risk over there,” he said of putting down roots in the Cannery District, which is slated for redevelopment but remains largely empty. “We’re the first people who are going to invest a significant amount of money.”