VALPARAISO — City Council members got their first look Monday night at the proposed Journeyman Distillery development at the old ANCO plant on the city’s south side.
The factory has been shuttered for more than a third of a century. By late fall 2022, the distillery could be operational, owner Bill Welter said.
“It’s been three years in a barrel here brewing, and we hope to have a tasting here soon,” Councilman George Douglas, R-at large, said.
“This is a long-awaited and very exciting project for the city,” Planning Director Beth Shrader said.
Attorney Todd Leeth, representing ANCO Development, introduced the council to a planned rezoning for the property, significantly downgrading it from heavy industrial to planned unit development – in effect, a new zoning category created specifically for this unusual project.
“It’s a repurposing of an industrial site, and I think very attractive for this part of town that needs a shot in the arm,” Leeth said.
At the Plan Commission hearing on the project, the only potentially negative comment was from L&S Metals, a metal recycling firm and one of the property’s neighbors to the west.
“We acknowledged that they’re there, and they bang some pots and pans and washing machines together as part of doing business,” Leeth said.
Leeth introduced a design concept to the council, previously shown to the Plan Commission, that includes a glass curtain wall that adds a wow factor to the development. The floor plan calls for kitchens, a tasting room, restaurant and other facilities, but where those elements will end up is subject to change.
First comes the rezoning, then the nitty-gritty work of architectural and engineering design work, Leeth explained.
The number of parking spaces could become an issue, but it’s easily solved, Leeth said.
“It’s not a typical restaurant. It’s not a typical bar,” he explained. “This is more targeted toward social events where drinking is encouraged and kind of the feature focus.”
Journeyman Distillery’s initial site is in Three Oaks, Michigan. The experience there has shown that for 65% of events, organizers plan for shuttle buses and ride shares to transport participants so they won’t drive off after imbibing.
“If parking does become an issue, my client has available land right across the street,” Leeth said.
The Valparaiso Redevelopment Commission is selling the land to Welter’s company to get the Journeyman Distillery’s second location operational. The city will operate a bus terminal for the ChicaGo Dash and other buses there.
A public hearing is expected at the council’s next meeting.
In other business, the council approved a $250,000 additional appropriation from the parks general fund to cover improvements at a variety of parks.
John Seibert, director of parks and recreation, said the money will address “critical needs” at the parks.
When golf does well, those funds go to support the parks and infrastructure, Douglas said, which extends the life of the parks and projects there.
One of the projects is to resurface tennis courts at Kirchhoff Park. The draft master plan includes moving those courts to another area in the park, but the courts are unsafe and need to be addressed now or removed, Seibert said.