Independent Brewers Help Rebuild Neighborhoods
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 six breweries whose presence helped to change their surroundings:
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.
On the Waterfront
Harpoon Brewery opened on the South Boston waterfront in 1986, when it was surrounded by auto body shops and little else. Now the brewery draws more than 85,000 people a year from tours and tastings, and thousands more from festivals. These days, the city is focused on redeveloping the area. New apartment and office buildings, restaurants and a convention center sit nearby.
Harpoon recently negotiated a 50-year lease with the city. The rent will rise over time, but generally, long leases provide protection from spikes that can happen when an area becomes so popular that property values skyrocket.
Rust Belt Revamp
Great Lakes Brewering Company 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 Ave., with cobblestones, and poured millions into renovating a nearby 19th-century market.