Urban Food-and-Beverage Campus Proposed to Lure Stone Brewing to Columbus
It’s no secret that Columbus has been courting the Stone Brewing Company for their $31 million brewery expansion project. The popular California-based craft brewery operation has grown rapidly since launching in 1996, and is currently the 10th largest craft brewery in the US. With that growth comes the need to expand to the other side of the country, and local leaders want Stone to call Columbus its new home away from home.
But what exactly does Columbus have to offer Stone that is both unique from a community-building perspective, and makes sense from a financial perspective? Quite a lot, actually.
“We’ve put together plans to create a craft food and beverage campus concept that could include Stone Brewing and the potential to host other growing food and drink producers, like Jeni’s or Middle West Spirits for example,” said Mark Wagenbrenner, President of Wagenbrenner Development. “We’re in the late stages with this proposal, and we hope it’s something that will set us apart for Stone Brewing.”
Wagenbrenner declined to specify where the campus could be located, saying only that it would be an appropriate urban development site. Wagenbrenner Development currently owns or controls multiple large parcels within the inner-city, including Jeffrey Park in Italian Village, the former Columbus Coating Fabrics Site in Weinland Park, the Timken Site in Milo-Grogan (pictured up top), and the Kaplin Site at the intersection of Grandview Avenue and Dublin Road.
It’s been reported that Stone Brewing has narrowed down their site selections search to just two cities: Norfolk, Virginia and Columbus. Wagenbrenner said that he’s heard that they could be making their decision and announcement as early as next week.
“We’re not the only place that sees the potential for Stone to be a part of the community,” added Steve Schoeny, Director of the Department of Development for the City of Columbus. “We’re competing very hard for them. I don’t know if we’re going to win this one or not, but it doesn’t mean that we’re not going to keep building these types of projects and supporting the businesses behind it.”
John Lowe, CEO of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, has taken an active role in the bid for Stone Brewing in Columbus, and sees a strong possibility of collaboration and site development in the future. Lowe does specify the same caveat as Wagenbrenner though: this is not a done deal just yet.
“For us at Jeni’s, we need additional production capacity and we’d like to build a facility that we can give tours of and show people the special way we make ice cream,” says Lowe. “The opportunity to do that next to a world-class brewery, and to take advantage of the shared benefits of parking, event spaces that could be used by both businesses, and other collaboration opportunities for both companies would be fantastic for us and for the city.”
The plan to create a food/drink manufacturing campus is designed to help Columbus stand out as a collaborative place to do business, which should overcome other financial incentives in other markets.
“We’re competing against New Markets Tax Credits, which are handed out by the federal government to some cities , we’re not armed with those,” explained Lowe. “What Columbus does have is a unique level of collaboration at all levels, from The Columbus Partnership to Columbus 2020 to The Columbus Foundation to The Mayor to civic and business leaders — there is a strong “Move Columbus Forward” effort that reaches beyond partisan politics and party affiliation. That’s very unique for any city that would compare itself to Columbus.”
Lowe cites the local movement behind the #stone2cbus campaign, where existing local breweries, bars, restaurants, beer aficionados and other locals can take part in the social media efforts to request the Stone Brewing expansion to land in our hometown. That effort also includes “Tap A Stone Day” this Saturday, where over fifty (50!) local bars will highlight beers from Stone Brewing.
Of course, at the end of the day, it’s not just about hip businesses like craft beer or artisan ice cream. It’s also about economic development, investment, and job creation.
“I can’t speak to specifics, but we have a really good sense that this would amount to several hundred new jobs on the production side, and a significant number more on the retail and hospitality side,” said Schoney. “We have the chance to combine some things we’ve been working on and really create a place that’s special for food and beverage. These businesses are all great on their own, but being able to build a place where those production kitchens and brewing facilities can all come together… now that’s exciting.”
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