Brewing Projekt, City Disagree Over Potential Site Cleanup Costs

Tom Giffey, photos by Andrea Paulseth

TAPROOM TIME. The Brewing Projekt has outgrown its current space, 2000 N. Oxford Ave., Eau Claire, and wants to buy a building from the city Redevelopment Authority.
TAPROOM TIME. The Brewing Projekt has outgrown its current space, 2000 N. Oxford Ave., Eau Claire, and wants to buy a building from the city Redevelopment Authority.

A disagreement over who will foot the bill for the potential environmental cleanup of a vacant industrial building could sink a deal to make it the new home of the Brewing Projekt. The Eau Claire brewery’s owner, William Glass, and the city Redevelopment Authority are at loggerheads over who is responsible for the costs (if there are any) of getting rid of contaminants at 1807 N. Oxford Ave.

“The whole process has really been a very frustrating one, but it is what it is,” said Glass, who contends that the RDA – the city’s redevelopment arm – is responsible for cleanup costs. The disagreement hinges on apparently contradictory wording between two documents: a lease agreement for the site and an overall development agreement, both of which were approved by the RDA on Oct. 12.

Glass maintains that, according to the terms of the lease that the Brewing Projekt negotiated, the RDA is responsible for cleanup. The lease, he says, is incorporated into the overall development agreement, which he says doesn’t address the issue of responsibility for hazardous materials.

By contrast, City Attorney Stephen Nick says that two documents contradict each other, with the development plan putting cleanup costs in Glass’s lap and the lease making them the RDA’s problem. “The terms of the development and the lease are different,” Nick said at a Nov. 16 RDA meeting, according to the Leader-Telegram. “That is something that needs to be addressed.”

Glass disputes Nick’s assessment, and says the city “screwed up,” realized after the fact that it had agreed to pay for cleanup, and is now trying to renege on what had been negotiated.

“I’m still gonna stand firm that they made a deal,” Glass said. “I’m not gonna roll over on it. What I thought we did is they gave some and I gave some.” The disagreement could be a “deal-breaker” and the Brewing Projekt is exploring other options, he added, although he would still prefer to relocate to the proposed site.

The dispute is the latest chapter in the ongoing saga of the brewery’s attempts at relocation. In July, after months of negotiation, an agreement was reached in which Glass would purchase the building, formerly the site of Silvermine Stone Co., from the RDA for $250,000. The Brewing Projekt opened a brewery and taproom in April 2015 a few blocks away at 2000 N. Oxford Ave., but quickly outgrew the space. Despite the prolonged effort to relocate, the brewery continues to pump out numerous well-received beers – including WISCoast, Gunpowder IPA, and Midnight Oil – which are available at the taproom as well as at watering holes, restaurants, and stores around the Valley.

The parties involved have already taken part in a walk-through of the 1807 Oxford Ave. building with environmental experts, whose findings should be available in the coming days. According to Mike Schatz, the city’s economic development director, once the report is in, the RDA will get bids for the cost of any needed remediation, and then Glass and the city can negotiate over whose responsibility those costs are.

“I’d like to certainly resolve this so Mr. Glass can move forward,” Schatz said.

For his part, Glass said he’s standing firm. “We’re still very much hoping to make this work,” he concluded, “but we expect to make it work on the terms that we agreed upon.”

Find out more about the Brewing Projekt on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram or at thebrewingprojekt.com.