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Renovation Report: Unknown Brewing Co.

CHARLOTTE – Up until a few months ago, breweries had to follow strict regulations if they were to be located anywhere but in city’s industrial areas.

While breweries certainly aren’t a heavy-industrial use like, say, a tire manufacturing plant, the city grouped breweries in the same category and vastly decreased the areas in which they could operate.

Unknown Brewery plans to open its tap room in September and begin production by the end of November. Photo by Payton Guion

Unknown Brewery plans to open its tap room in September and begin production by the end of November. Photo by Payton Guion

But earlier this year, the city adopted two amendments to the zoning ordinance that changed the rules about how and where brewers could set up shop.

Brad Shell was among the first to take advantage of latter of the two amendments – the one that increased the number of zoning districts in which breweries could operate. Since June, Shell has been working to renovate an older space at 1327 S. Mint St. and turn it into the Unknown Brewing Co.

Prior to the latest brewery amendment, passed in June, Unknown wouldn’t have been permitted in Mixed-Use Development Districts, Pedestrian Overlay Districts, Transit-Oriented Development Districts or Urban Mixed-Use Districts.  All these districts are generally in urban areas and have stringent design standards.

The council approved breweries in those districts, but with stipulations. The brewery must be 15,000 square feet or less, but could be up to 25,000 square feet if in a building older than 1980. The brewery also must have an accessory use – a taproom, tasting room or restaurant – that is at least 20 percent of the total square footage of the brewery or 1,500 square feet, whichever is less.

Bridget Dixon, the planning coordinator with the city who drafted the brewery amendments, said the reason for the added square footage on older buildings was to encourage what the city is calling “adaptive reuse.”

Unknown’s building was built in 1988, according to Mecklenburg County records, so it’s not eligible for the adaptive reuse exception. But at 14,008 total square feet, Shell doesn’t need the exception. Many other buildings in the now-approved zoning districts are older than 1980, though.

The brewery broke ground on June 24 and, at that time, Shell said the 2,000-square-foot taproom would be finished in August.  In an interview last week Shell hinted at delays with the county permitting department, saying that the taproom now won’t be done until the end of September and the production end until November.

When asked specifically about issues with the permitting department, Shell declined to comment.

As the completion date gets closer, Unknown will be holding a grand opening party. Shell said he expects to announce the party by Oct. 1. Beer will be included.

Project description: Unknown Brewing Co. is renovating a building on Mint Street for the company’s brewery.

Address: 1327 S. Mint St.

Cost: Roughly $150,000, according to Mecklenburg County records.

Space under renovation: 14,008 square feet

General Contractor: Ranger Construction Co.

Construction began: June 24

Completion date: Tap room is set to be finished in September and the rest of the project is slated for a November completion date.

 

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