Brewery Vivant preparing to open

November 8, 2010
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Grand Rapids city commissioners will hold two public hearings next week that could help with the redevelopment of an acre of vacant land in the East Hills business district.

Both hearings will look at declaring the properties obsolete under Public Act 146, and then provide tax exemptions for the developers whose projects are going in next door to each other.

Double Barrel Partners RE LLC, headed by Jason and Kris Spaulding, is in the process of finishing work on Brewery Vivant, a restaurant, tap room and microbrewery at 925 Cherry St. SE. The production facility will go into the nearby building with the unique barrel roof at 930 Lake Drive SE, which will be LEED certified. The new business is expected to create up to 25 jobs, with about six being permanent. The eligible investment for the tax exemption is $400,000.

The other hearing will be held for 925 Cherry LLC, which was created by John Green and Andy Winkel of Locus Development. The firm is renovating 925 Cherry St. SE into a mixed-use development that will be LEED certified. The building will offer commercial and retail space, including Brewery Vivant, along with apartments. The eligible investment for the tax break is $810,000, but Green and Winkel are investing $3 million into the project. Twenty new jobs are expected to be created, with eight being permanent.

Jason and Kris Spaulding, husband and wife, will feature Belgian and French beers and foods at Brewery Vivant. Construction began last summer and is nearing its wrap-up.

“Things are happening so fast, it’s hard to keep track of everything. We’re still on target to be open around mid-December,” said Jason Spaulding. “It’s been a whirlwind.”

Part of the experience has included hiring Jacob Derylo, a Grand Rapids resident, as the brewery’s head brewer. “He is a great artistic brewer and is going to fit very nicely into the types of beers we want to make,” said Spaulding. “It was kind of fun to hire someone locally, too.”

The Spauldings also intend to buy as many locally grown products as they can for their business. Spaulding admitted that fulfilling that intention will be difficult during the upcoming winter. But he added that they plan to remedy that situation beginning next spring and will continue buying local through the summer months.

An interesting aspect of the microbrewery business is the state lists the industry as a manufacturing function, while other states categorize it as an agricultural activity. If the Spauldings were making wine instead of beer, the business classification would be agricultural because the state sees vineyards as basically grape farms. Barley and hops, however, aren’t given the same consideration.

Spaulding said one reason for that is barley isn’t a major crop in Michigan. He said another is the state lacks a malting plant, which is needed to bring barley to its starchiest point. “If we had the grain, I bet someone would build a malting facility here, or if we had a malting company, that might spur the production of grain,” he said. “But who knows, if microbreweries get stronger, then possibly both could happen.”

Green told the Business Journal via e-mail that they’ve had a number of inquiries from retailers about leasing some of the ground-floor commercial space. Right now, they intend to build a 1,000-square-foot, two-bedroom apartment, and a 2,400-square-foot, four-bedroom apartment on the upper level at 925 Cherry.

“It is our intention to renovate the upper floor of the historic home for apartments but we are waiting to see what goes into the first-floor space before making that decision. We are also considering apartments on the upper floor(s) of the west infill building but want to better understand the rental market in this neighborhood and hear from the neighbors,” said Green, of the property’s third building that may or may not be redeveloped right away.

Cornerstone Architects designed the renovation work and Orion Construction is managing it. The Spauldings are leasing space from Locus Development.

City Economic Development Director Kara Wood said the projects will increase the city’s long-term tax base and will put a vacant property into productive use. Commissioners will hold the hearings Nov. 16.

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