Finance committee gives nod to brewery building loan

A request for a $75,000 city-backed stabilization loan to shore up a 130-year-old downtown building was recommended for approved Wednesday by the city’s finance committee.

The move came after the finance committee meeting was rescheduled due to a city staff member’s illness. It was held in time to be reviewed before the full city commission’s meeting the coming Wednesday, at which time it will be eligible for a vote to approve.

The loan was requested by the partners of the proposed Silver Bluff Brewing Co., slated to be built in the 1300 block of Newcastle Street. Their plan today is to stabilize the building at 1317 Newcastle St. and build a tap room, biergarten and industrial brewing operation on the remaining portion of the block. Once stabilized, the building at 1317 Newcastle St. will not immediately be used by the brewery, but may be part of a future expansion, according to Chris Moline, one of the brewing partners.

The stabilization loan program was created by city commissioners in November 2016 to provide preservation incentives for structures in danger of collapsing. The program allows for loans of up to 30 percent of the stabilization cost. The city can forgive loan repayment if the recipient fully complies with approved restoration plans and meets timetable requirements. Funds can only be used for stabilization.

Moline told the committee Wednesday if the loan, which is about 10 percent of the total stabilization cost, is approved, work would begin quickly.

Tentatively, concrete slabs could be poured within three or four weeks, and pre-fabricated steel could begin to be installed within 10 to 12 weeks, Moline said. He cautioned the timetable is fluid and could be changed due to weather and other unforeseen circumstances. Moline said he and his partners hope to open the brewery something in the first quarter of 2019.

City Manager Jim Drumm called the stabilization initiative “a good example of how historic preservation can be married with economic development.” Drumm added 1317 Newcastle St. is the only remaining historic building on that block, and preserving it would be in the financial interest of the city for the purpose of drawing tourism downtown.

Money for the stabilization loan program comes from the city’s Jekyll Island Fund, according to Drumm. The funds were originally federal grant money the city received and then provided to the Jekyll Island Club Hotel for historic preservation. As the club hotel repaid the money to the city, it was put in a specialized fund now used for economic development, Drumm added.

City commissioners allocated $89,892 in this year’s fiscal budget for the stabilization loan program. Last year’s budget included $33,810.

The Brunswick City Commission will meet at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Old City Hall, 1229 Newcastle St. in Brunswick for its next regularly scheduled meeting.

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