Lebanon fire station to be transformed into restaurant with brewery or distillery

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

Station 41, the City of Lebanon’s long-time main fire station, would be transformed into a family-style restaurant and microbrewery or distillery, according to a deal being negotiated by city officials and a management group.

Lebanon City Manager Scott Brunka said the city is in the process of negotiating a letter of intent with the developer.

The deal with Verity Management Group would culminate a process begun to find a new user for the firehouse at 20 W. Silver St., once the city’s new $7 million fire station, now under construction, is built north of downtown on former Warren County Fairgrounds property.

“This proposal represents the collective opinion of a team with extensive local and regional commercial development expertise, as well as directly relevant operations experience. We are enthusiastic about the opportunity this project represents and are confident in our capacity to deliver the outcomes proposed herein,” according to the proposal submitted by Christopher Romano, a former trustee in Deerfield Twp., Warren County.

Lebanon is without a microbrewery or distillery, a point made in the proposal. Plans for a microbrewery to be developed in an old shoe factory downtown by the Alexanders, a local family with wide range of businesses, have apparently stalled.

Verity Management Group, based in Deerfield Twp., is seeking pubic incentives and assistance in exchange for bringing to fruition “a highly successful, long-term outcome for the Lebanon community,” according to the group’s submission to a request for proposals for reuse of the fire station.

The plan calls for remodeling of the 9,200 square-foot building on nearly 0.7 acres next to the LCNB Bank building on Broadway. At one time, the bank was expected to raze the building for additional parking.

In addition to the bank, other bidders include CrossFit Superfly and Ryan Powers, a local businessman proposing a co-working facility there.

The new building would include up to 12,000 square feet of “mixed-use office/retail/restaurant space” to be leased..

The Verity plan is expected to include ''the City’s stated preference to ‘maintain ownership of the property for a fixed term’ due to concerns with long-term viability of the project, according to the proposal.

An unidentified “successful restaurant operator with multiple Tri-State family-oriented restaurants, a known brand with really good food and access to capital,” would operate the restaurant. The brewery or distiller has yet to be determined, according to the proposal.

“We are currently in discussions with both a local business owner who operates a successful brewery and tap house, and also with another entrepreneur seeking an appropriate location for a new distillery/restaurant,” the proposal continues.

Verity proposes to invest $300,000 on exterior renovations and create jobs for up to 70 employees. It seeks $70,000 in “offsets” from the property valuation and an exclusive three-year option to purchase the property. The improvements and purchase would be financed through the Warren County Port Authority.

"We anticipate a need for some combination of tenant-paid and landlord-paid improvements totaling around $300,000,” as well as a " sales-tax exemption for the cost of renovations, an incentive worth around $21,000."

Also the developers want a 12-year, 50% tax abatement on the improvements “worth around $13,500 per year, or $163,000 over the 12-year period.”

The city would be expected to accept the development for a kilowatt hour tax rebate on utility expenses, complete “an environmental analysis of the property and share the results with us in advance of negotiating an agreement.”

In addition, the city would “provide technical and financial assistance with, and where possible expedite, the zoning and permitting process, as well as providing appropriate utility, stormwater and wastewater disposal appropriate for the proposed use,” as well as help “negotiating an evenings and weekends parking arrangement with adjacent property owners.”

“We are still early on in the project development phase,” Brunka added in email responses.

“The City is looking forward to transitioning this property back to the private sector, which will enhance the economic vitality of our central business district and continue the positive momentum that we are currently experiencing in our downtown.”

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