Lilburn officials are looking to revitalize the Railroad Avenue area of Old Town Lilburn and the first goal in that effort is starting to brew.
They want to attract a brewery to fill part of the building currently occupied by Builders Steel Supply.
“That is the hope,” Lilburn Community Development Administrator Brian Burchik said.
The city recently issued a request for proposals from partners interested in developing a brewery in part of the building, which is located at 57 Railroad Ave., and conducted a walk through on Friday. Anyone interested in taking on the project must submit a proposal by March 1.
Burchik said the building is a large warehouse with 29,112 square feet of space.
“It’s positioned at the sort of the start of Railroad Avenue, which is a street that is right in the middle of Old Town but has always just been historically an industrial dead end kind of street and hasn’t been integrated into any kind of downtown experience at all,” Burchik said.
“And, so we felt like that property would be the first one to kind of catalyze the transformation of, ultimately, Railroad Avenue.”
With the addition of a brewery, Railroad Avenue would become a destination of sorts for people looking to buy locally produced alcohol. The Hope Springs Distillery is also located on that street.
“We’re really excited that breweries have become such destinations for people to come into a downtown and (it’s) just become such a trend,” Burchik said. “We hope our residents will love this as sort of local brewery and that a very big (part) in our RFP. It’s stated very clearly that the concepts show that they’re significantly interested in having a theme or a concept that feels very local to our community.
“So, we’re excited for that and that it will be sort of a community gathering for Lilburn, but also we know that there’s people who travel around to other cities, kind of hopping around from brewery to brewery. There is that kind of passion to go and check out all of these different breweries.”
Burchik said the goal is to have a brewery that can act as an entertainment and tourism destination in addition to being a place where beer is produced.
That means having a tasting room where visitors can hang out and sample beers before walking up to Main Street to visit businesses, restaurants or City Park.
“It’s maybe one block to get from the brewery site to Main Street and then you just cross over Main Street and you’re in the park basically,” Burchik said. “And, we do have a hospitality zone in this area so that you can take a drink to go, you can take a beer to go and walk to the park or Main Street.”
There is another brewery in development in Lilburn, called Blackbird Farms Brewery. That brewery will be located on Lawrenceville Highway and is expected to open this spring, according to Burchik.
The city is looking at additional plans for Railroad Avenue, so it is no longer a dead end street that ends at Hope Springs and only serves as a manufacturing area off Main Street. Streetscaping and connections to the Camp Creek Greenway would also be in the plans for that road.
“We hope to see it become a connected road to other streets in downtown,” Burchik said. “So (it would be) connecting to First Avenue, having a connection that brings a connection from the residential areas on that west side of Main Street where they can walk and have pathways that come from streets like First Avenue, Elizabeth Way and all of these places into, not just Railroad Avenue, but just go a little bit further and connect straight to the greenway.”
There has been some groups that have already established breweries elsewhere, and are looking to open a second or third location, as well as newcomers who have been looking for the right opportunity to jump into the brewery business who have expressed interest in the site.
“The nature of this space, because it is large, you do kind of have to be somebody who is looking to take on a pretty significant sized concept,” Burchik said. “This isn’t for just kind of a small brewery. It’s definitely a size that you would want to producing a significant amount and you’d need to have a vision for a pretty large tasting room.
“So, the nature of the building in some ways limits who can really think they can take on that large of a space.”
Burchik said the city is looking at the building having multiple uses, noting that it is a large facility even by brewery standards. Building Steel Supply originally owned the building, but sold it to the Lilburn Downtown Development Authority. The firm is currently leasing back the space from the DDA until it can finish construction on a new facility which is expected to open later this year.
As a result, the RFP that the city has put out is inviting interested parties to come up with their ideas for how all of the space could be used, with the brewery serving as an anchor for the site, according to the city’s community development administrator.
“As we’ve looked at it, up to this point, there’s been talks and interest in maybe one half of the building, one side of the building, being a brewery,” Burchik said. “Then perhaps on the other side maybe its kind of an open food hall concept, maybe with a few different restaurant stalls, thinking about kind of like Krog Street Market or something like that.
“There’s also a significant amount of office spacing so perhaps maybe a company with offices there and leases office space or a co-working space or something like that.”
The RFP for the site can be viewed at bit.ly/2NxB31p.