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Washington brewpub developers unveil plans for two more projects

Nathan Watson, CEO of CL Real Estate Development, answers a question from a Washington City Council alderperson.
Steve Stein
Nathan Watson, CEO of CL Real Estate Development, answers a question from a Washington City Council alderperson.

Developers of the Tangled Roots brewpub and restaurant on the downtown Washington square announced plans Monday for projects in two nearby buildings.

Grist Mill Ventures purchased the former Knights of Columbus hall at 120 Walnut St., and a building at 126 Walnut St., that formerly was home to Prep Freeze Cook in November 2022.

Plans call for the Knights of Columbus building, constructed in 1917, to become a new event space operated by Tangled Roots Brewing Company with a maximum capacity of 132, and the Prep Freeze Cook building, which dates to 1964, to become a new retail space. Two short-term residential units are planned for the second floor of the Knights of Columbus building.

There also are plans to convert the parking lot for 126 Walnut into a courtyard event space with a maximum capacity of 132.

Construction has not yet begun on the brewpub project at 140 Washington Square. A grand opening is expected in November 2024. The event space project is expected to be completed in mid-2024.

"These new projects would overlap with the brewpub project," Nathan Watson, CEO of CL Real Estate Development, told Washington City Council members Monday during a committee of the whole meeting.

"We want to get the event space project going as soon as possible," Watson said.

Questions about available nearby parking for the brewpub and the new projects were raised once again.

"It's been my experience in downtown areas that if you have a good product, people will find a place to park," said Jon Oliphant, the city's planning and development director.

"That said, the city is always looking for opportunities to add parking around the square."

Approximately three full-time and 20 part-time jobs will be created by the new projects, according to the developers, who estimate that $15,000-$22,000 in home-rule sales tax revenue and $8,000-$12,500 in state-shared sales tax revenue will be created annually by the projects.

Estimated total cost for the new projects is $1.25 million, not including an additional investment of about $750,000 by Grist Mill Ventures for furniture, fixtures and pre-opening expenses.

Grist Mill Ventures is asking the city for $350,000 in financial assistance for the $1.25 million cost. Most of the assistance would come from TIF (tax increment financing) money. The rest would need to come from the city's general fund.

A vote on the request is expected at the Nov. 6 City Council meeting.

Alderperson Brian Butler said this is an opportunity the city can't ignore.

"Right now, we have two deteriorating, empty buildings that aren't generating much revenue for our city," he said.

Unlike the $8 million-plus brewpub project, which has received TIF money for construction milestones, Grist Mill Ventures won't receive TIF money for the new projects until they are completed. The city recommends 75% within 60 days after completion and the submittal of invoices, and the remaining 25% a year later.

"That's traditionally how our TIF funding is paid out," Oliphant said.

Up to $980,000 in TIF money was pledged for the brewpub project. So far, $600,000 has been paid out.

Brewpub developers are continuing to have issues with neighbors Marlene Miller and the Washington Historical Society over damage done to their buildings at 114 Walnut and 128 Washington Square, respectively, during demolition.

Those issues were addressed Monday.

Carmen Gratace, president of construction and development for Global Builders, said his company will do "whatever it takes" to craft agreements with Miller and the Historical Society.

"Anytime you do a project like this with adjoining buildings, an urban infill, things like this can happen," Gratace said. "I don't want to get involved in the politics of the situation. My job is to build buildings."

In response, Jewel Ward, president of the Historical Society, said she wanted to clear up misinformation that's been circulated around town about her organization's issues with the brewpub developers.

She said there has been communication between the Historical Society and developers, and the Historical Society paid to repair its building's foundation and painted the building with a seal coat from its own funds, not insurance money.

"We have every reason to believe we will be reimbursed for these costs by the developers because their contractors were responsible," she said.

Ward also said from her experience as a part-owner of a construction company that has built numerous fast food restaurants throughout the Midwest, Florida and Georgia, the Historical Society's request for a written agreement with the brewpub developers prior to construction, which hasn't been received, isn't unusual and recommended.

"Finally, the Historical Society is waiting for the final approved prints of the brewpub so we can see how our buildings will be tied together and what additional work will need to be done to our building prior to the brewpub being built," Ward said.

Steve Stein is an award-winning news and sports writer and editor. Most recently, he covered Tazewell County communities for the Peoria Journal Star for 18 years.