In the more than 40 years since the last barrel of beer left the Grain Belt brewhouse, the city around it has changed enormously. And building by building, the brewing complex that once produced 500,000 barrels a year has itself gradually caught up with the 21st century.
Since 2002, the six buildings on the Grain Belt campus have become spaces for architects and publishers, tea rooms and tech support, a public library and artists. In October 2017, the city’s Community Planning and Economic Development department (CPED) created a request for proposal to develop the last nine parcels on the campus. Working with the Sheridan Neighborhood Organization (SNO), CPED’s aim was to provide opportunities for mixed-use development (office, commercial, residential) to retain the unique historical character of the area, and provide a minimum of 20 percent of the housing developed to be affordable minimally at 60 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI) for rental or 80 percent AMI for ownership.
Three local developers submitted proposals for the project and gave presentations to 30 neighborhood residents at East Side Neighborhood Services Feb. 26.
There also will be an opportunity for the public to review and comment on the proposals during an open house on March 8, 5:30– 7:30 p.m. at the Food Building, 1401 Marshall St. NE.
At the Feb. 26 meeting, SNO board member Jenny Fortman spoke to those assembled about the project: “SNO started in 1999, and one of our goals was put the remaining city-owned properties around the GB brewery into productive use.” She outlined the properties involved: the parking lot at 13th and Marshall, the north portions of the warehouse and bottling house, and the parking area east of Sheridan Memorial Park.
She explained that all three development proposals received are at concept stage right now, which means that a lot can change. “There are a lot of unknowns, and funding is not in place at this time. What we’re really looking for is someone whose goals and visions align with ours; someone who we think will share this community’s visions and work to make what we want to see there,” she said.
Since all the proposals would involve some public money, the development will not be a fast process, Fortman said. “It won’t be like this plan gets approved in the spring and it starts getting built in the summer. It could be a year or more. So pay attention to the things you value, and which of the developers who share your goals and visions. ”
Artspace’s senior vice-president Greg Handberg went first. “I’m here because we were here in 2005, which was the last big RFP for the GB area. At that time the city sought fit to include the GB Bottling House and the warehouse in the RFP for the remaining properties in the campus. The buildings were occupied with artists who had made an investment in the space, and had created a community in those two buildings. They were facing almost certain dislocation. They worked with the city to disentangle those two buildings from that RFP process, and we worked with the artists to accomplish the acquisition of those two buildings for the purpose of preserving that arts community.”
Artspace proposes 180 new-construction dwelling units; approx. 53,000 sq. ft. of non-residential commercial space; 407 parking spaces (at full build-up), most of them in structured parking located on the site. The plan calls for 93 one-bedroom, 54 two-bedroom, 24 three-bedroom, and 9 four-bedroom units. Handberg said it was too early to know whether units would be ownership or all-rental, and noted that parking lots would be shuffled around during building construction.
Handberg added, “This proposal is mixed-use; it is mixed income. It is not all art, but it is intended to preserve the art community that is there, and expand with us as we go forward.”
The second presentation came from Nordeast Development, a partnership of Lupe Development and Wall Companies, and Ecumen, a senior housing non-profit. Lupe assistant project manager Cameron Flakne proposed an “intergenerational community” which would include affordable, workforce, and senior housing, as well as a charter school, art space, sculpture space and a greenway. He suggested that parking areas for daytime users could be reclaimed as nighttime event spaces. Their plan calls for 93 units of senior units, 148 one- and two-bedrooms, and three to five townhomes. Flakne added, “We are seeking potential land swap with the park board for additional space. We want to move Water Street to go under the overhead power lines, freeing up some space for building.” There would be 439 parking spaces, with 25 percent underground. Flakne said underground testing suggests that one level of below-grade parking will not be a problem.
The final presentation came from The Landon Group, the Lander Group, and architect Pete Keely of Collage Architecture. Landon Group’s Becky Landon said, “We are proposing a multi-family building on the corner with first-level commercial space, maybe a restaurant, maybe neighborhood-level retail, and 215 rental units, a minimum of 20-30 percent affordable. We’ve thought about going all the way up to 100 percent affordable, but we want to work with the city to determine the best mix of market rate and affordable. The apartments surround a parking deck, so the major district parking would be at this deck, used by tenants and also by Grain Belt main building users as well, with 425 total spaces.” Landon pointed to the abandoned railroad area which their plan would reclaim as a “landscaped and activated space going all the way from 14th to Broadway.”
(One of the partners in their group, Newport, already owns the Keg House at 34 13th Ave. NE, between 13th and Broadway.)
Artists at the meeting have spaces in the Bottling House and the Warehouse, which would be surrounded by the proposed housing construction. One of them asked about the loss of window light which, she said, was one of the great features of her building. All three developers responded that some loss was inevitable, and efforts would be made to preserve as much light as possible.
Third Ward City Council member Steve Fletcher, CPED, and SNO are co-hosting an open house on Thursday, March 8, to give more feedback about the proposals, 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. at the Food Building, 1401 Marshall St. NE.
Below: Greg Handberg from Artspace, Cameron Flakne from Lupe Development, and Becky Landon of Landon Group explained their proposals for the collection of parcels remaining in the Grain Belt area. While the historic buildings will remain, there are newer additions to the Warehouse and Bottling House buildings which could be removed. Proposers addressed what they would do with the former railroad spur between the two buildings. Close-ups of the proposals follow. (Photos by Mark Peterson)