Middletown developer opts to do micro-brew first

An Illinois developer whose company owns two key downtown buildings opted to switch things around this week when submitting his application for state historic tax credits.

According to city officials, William Grau opted to submit an application for the tax credits to renovate the former Dan Snider Ford/Sonshine Building into a brewpub and micro-brew in the March award cycle. The deadline to submit applications was Tuesday.

“He wanted to focus on the brewery to get it up and running as it will attract tourists to the Manchester,” said Denise Hamet, the city’s economic development director, in an email. “He continues to move forward with planning for the Manchester and will submit for the historic tax credits at a later date for that project.”

Hamet said that “he looked at a lot of different factors, and the best answer was to break out the brewery building and run with it.”

The total anticipated investment for the brewpub and micro-brew is about $6.3 million and about half of that cost is for the brewing equipment. Hamet said Grau is applying for about $630,000 in state tax credits.

Grau had been working on securing the financing commitments from investors for the $10 million Manchester project before Tuesday’s deadline. The next application cycle deadline is in September to apply for the tax credits.

Hamet said Grau’s group, Snider Building LLC, which was the previous name of the Sonshine Building, is planning to restore the three-story, 32,376 square-foot building to its original look, renovating it into a 160-plus-seat brewpub on the first floor; an outside beer garden for 100 people; a 30 bbl brew-house with a small brewing system with canning/bottling lines, packaging and storage on the first floor and lower level; and a 1,200-square-foot event room for 100 people. In addition, there will be meeting and event rooms, offices and storage on the second floor. The kitchen will serve pub fare such as burgers, wings and flat-bread pizza.

Grau said the development plan is to partner with a brewer to produce and self-distribute the beers locally and regionally, with a capacity of 50,000 bbl a year. Approximately 3,000 square feet of the former auto showroom will be utilized as a taproom/brewpub that is expected to employ 28 full- and part-time workers and up to 50 full-time workers by year five. The project completion date is set for fall 2016.

Hamet said the Manchester project will be part of a separate tax credit application to be filed at a later date.

She recently said if Grau chose to apply for the tax credits in September or later, his intention was to start pre-construction repairs to the building, based on what is allowed by the historic standards, so that the project continues to move along.

Hamet said that Grau is also continuing to review a variety of options for the hotel flag or brand, management company, restaurant, etc. in order to determine the optimum structure for the facility. She said he has several choices for the flag but has not made a selection yet.

The 93-year-old Manchester Inn hotel on Manchester Avenue has been closed for nearly four years.

Since acquiring the hotel, Grau and his ownership group have made repairs to the building’s leaking roof and treated it for mold. In addition, the various metal awnings that once adorned the building have been removed to prevent water damage to the structure. Plans for the Manchester include renovating it back into a hotel along with a restaurant, banquet facilities and office space. The former hotel has been nominated to be included on the National Register of Historic Places.

The city was asking $325,000 for the Manchester, but accepted Grau’s $1 offer earlier last year. Grau also acquired the adjacent Sonshine Building for $1. He plans to invest $10 million into the property.

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