July 5, 2013 in Business

Breweries breathe new life into rundown urban areas

Tali Arbel Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

A bicyclist rides past Hale’s Ales brewery and pub in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle last week. In the neighborhood, home to fishing shops, shipyards and boat fueling facilities for decades, six breweries have sprung up in the past two years, joining Hale’s and Maritime Pacific Brewing, which both opened in the 1990s.
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

In once rundown urban districts across the country, craft breweries have helped to transform the neighborhoods around them.

Small business owners tackled the hard work of transforming industrial buildings, many of which had sat empty as demographic changes pulled manufacturers and residents to the suburbs.

Small-time, independent brewers have been one of the beer market’s growth drivers. The number of breweries in the U.S. catapulted from 92 in 1980 to 2,514 as of May 2013, according to craft beer trade group Brewers Association. Barrels shipped have more than doubled in the past decade, and craft beer now makes up nearly 7 percent of a U.S. beer market that is growing slowly overall, according to trade publication Beer Marketer’s Insights.

As the breweries churned out beer, they drew visitors and eventually new, young residents – and more small businesses.

Here’s a look at several breweries whose presence helped to change their surroundings:

Downtown Digs

Boulevard Brewing opened in 1989 in its Kansas City, Mo. Westside neighborhood, creating a brewery out of a building that had been a railroad’s laundry. While it probably would have been cheaper for the company to be in the suburbs, the brewery’s managers are “committed urbanists” who like the idea of contributing to the vitality of the central city as opposed to building on undeveloped land in the suburbs, says Boulevard’s CFO, Jeff Crum.

The building’s renovation ranged from replacing pipes to cutting out a skylight to make room for tanks. And in order to grow, Boulevard had to buy the land around it from different owners, get approvals from neighbors and get the city to rezone the land around it.

The brewery, at first, struggled to attract visitors, but now draws about 50,000 people annually as the area around it picked up alongside a broader renewal in nearby downtown Kansas City.

“Not very many years ago this would be an area you’d stay the hell away from,” says Danny O’Neill, who started a coffee roaster, the Roasterie, down the street from Boulevard in 1993. Boulevard helped him find his building, and nowadays the coffee factory and brewery host tours and weddings. “Somebody has to go in there first, and I think that’s the role that Boulevard played,” O’Neill says.

Great Lakes opened in Cleveland’s Ohio City neighborhood in 1988. The downtown neighborhood was “perceived as dangerous and blighted” into the 1980s, says Eric Wobser. He works for Ohio City Inc., a nonprofit that promotes residential and commercial development while trying to preserve the neighborhood’s older buildings.

Great Lakes built a brewery and a brewpub. Other breweries and businesses – a pasta maker, a bike shop, a tortilla factory, as well as restaurants and bars – followed. Newcomers flock to the neighborhood, even though Cleveland’s overall population is still declining. The city repaved the quiet street next to the brewery, Market Avenue, with cobblestones, and poured millions into renovating a nearby 19th-century market.

Brewery Bubble

In the Ballard section of Seattle, home to fishing shops, shipyards and boat fueling facilities for decades, six breweries have sprung up in the past two years. They joined Hale’s Ales and Maritime Pacific Brewing, which both opened in Ballard in the 1990s.

Hale’s Ales in 1995 took over a facility that had housed an industrial hose manufacturer and before that a maker of engines.

The neighborhood has become “softer,” says Hale’s Ales manager Phil O’Brien. “What used to be fishing shops are little restaurants – what used to be hardware stores are now coffee shops.”

While Ballard is still a hub of maritime industry, it has landed higher-income apartment buildings and has attracted restaurants and nightlife.

Across the Bay

The tech boom has made one brewpub’s growth plans more complicated. In San Francisco, 21st Amendment brewery is two blocks from AT&T Park where baseball’s Giants play. Along with the bustling technology sector, 21st Amendment helped to transform the city’s SoMa neighborhood.

“People refer to us as the granddaddy of the neighborhood,” says 21st Amendment founder Nico Freccia.

Now the company wants to build an 80,000-square-foot brewery – but property values are too high. The company has opened offices in the East Bay and is scouting space there for the brewery, hoping to help revitalize an Oakland neighborhood.

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