Plans filed for new brewery, restaurant, apartment project in East Lawrence

Courtesy: City of Lawrence

As anyone who has ever tried, failed and perhaps had to use a stomach pump will tell you, there is a definite art to brewing beer. So, it makes sense that a new brewery will be located in East Lawrence’s Warehouse Arts District. But plans filed at City Hall not only show a new brewery, but also are proposing another multistory building for the district near Eighth and Pennsylvania streets.

A pair of Lawrence businessmen have filed plans to convert the old SeedCo building at 826 Pennsylvania St. into a brewery, restaurant and apartment building. The renovation plans include adding two stories to the old building, which is just south of the recently renovated Cider Gallery. Here’s a look at a couple of concept designs that have been submitted to the city for consideration.

Courtesy: City of Lawrence

Let’s start with the beer. Longtime liquor executive Matt Williams is planning to open the Lawrence Beer Company on the ground floor of the old industrial building. Plans call for the company to have space to brew about six varieties of beer, plus operate a restaurant. In other words, it will be a full-scale brew pub, although Williams said it won’t have as extensive a menu as, say, Free State Brewery in downtown.

Williams said plans call for a lot of outdoor seating areas, a simple kitchen, and a vibe that fits in with the growing arts district, which also is home to several small startup companies that have offices in the adjacent Cider Gallery building.

“I really love all the creativity and passion that comes with a small brewery,” said Williams, who has worked for a branding company that works with breweries across the country, and before that was in the liquor distribution business. “We will be a real family-friendly place. We just want to be a good place where people of all ages can feel comfortable to come and spend some time.”

As for the beer, Williams said Lawrence Beer Company — which also will brand itself as LBC — plans to be “pretty straightforward.” That means a focus on beers that appeal to a wide segment of the market rather than highly stylized brews that are aimed at the beer geeks of the world. But Williams said the brewery does plan to include several seasonal beer varieties as part of its offerings.

Now, for the apartment part of the project. Williams is partnering with Lawrence businessman Adam Williams — they are not related — to build a mix of 14 one- and two-bedroom apartments at the site.

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Lawrence-based architect Paul Werner has designed plans to add two stories onto the building, which dates back to the early 1900s. The development group is arguing that the two-story addition actually will improve the historical integrity of the Warehouse Arts District because the building once was 2.5 stories tall before a previous owner removed them. I think there was a fire that caused the removal of the upper floors, although I’m not certain. (I am certain that my experiments with brewing didn’t cause that one.)

The development group says the 14 apartments are an important component of the project. Getting more people living in and near the warehouse arts district is an important part of creating more business activity in the district.

The project will have to win multiple approvals from City Hall. But if the project does move forward, it will be just the latest sign of momentum for the district. If you are not familiar with the district, it has the Poehler Lofts building, which converted an old warehouse into rent-controlled apartments, and it has the new 9 Del Lofts project that also are rent-controlled apartments housed in a brand new multistory building near Ninth and Delaware streets.

Both those projects received significant financial incentives from City Hall. I haven’t seen a request yet for financial incentives for this project, but I also didn’t check with Williams about that specifically. I’ll let you know if I hear any plans for an incentive request for the project.

It also will be key for the development to win some support from East Lawrence residents. Some East Lawrence residents have been fighting a proposal for a small bar and bistro to be installed in a small stone building near the corner of Eighth and Pennsylvania streets. There has been concern the use could become too much of a bar.

Williams said his group already has had preliminary discussions with the East Lawrence Neighborhood Association, and is working to assure the group that it plans to run a neighborhood-friendly establishment.

“We’re not going to be a night club,” Williams said. “We’re probably looking at a closing time of 10 p.m. on weeknights and midnight on weekends.”

If the city approval process goes well, Williams said he hopes to have the project up and running by early September.