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Journeyman Distillery plans on fast track in Valpo
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Journeyman Distillery plans on fast track in Valpo

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VALPARAISO — Plans for Journeyman Distillery’s location here are still being drafted, but the Plan Commission got a sneak peek at concepts this week and fast-tracked rezoning for the project so it can be forwarded to the City Council.

The distillery is being developed at the site of the former ANCO windshield wiper plant on Campbell Street, where Brown Street ends. The property is currently zoned for heavy industry but would be rezoned as a planned unit development.

“This is a repurposing of a shuttered factory that has been shuttered for 30-35 years or more,” said attorney Todd Leeth, representing ANCO Revitalization LLC. Bill Welter is the principal behind Journeyman Distillery in Three Oaks, Michigan, and the one in Valparaiso.

The building will include a demonstration kitchen, brewery, distillery, cigar bar and other areas.

“There’s a lot to this, and a lot more detail needs to be brought to the forefront. We’re only partway through designing,” Leeth said. 

The developer is working with Valparaiso officials on a variety of fronts. The property is being purchased from the city’s Redevelopment Commission, which is eager to see the project completed.

The Plan Commission voted this week to suspend its rules and approve rezoning for the project in just one meeting so it can be given to the City Council for final approval.

“Architecture is also a concern, I know, of the city staff,” Leeth said. Some industrial design standards are being inserted into the PUD ordinance.

A centerpiece of the exterior is a glass curtain wall facing east. “That’s a very focal point, architecturally, of the entire project,” Leeth said.

A grassy courtyard with seating is planned. “We believe that that will be a great draw for this certainly in the summer months,” he said.

Another focal point is the rusty water tower, an iconic feature that will be repainted with the Journeyman Distillery logo.

City officials hope the site will become a tourist attraction like the one in Three Oaks.

The developer plans to acquire additional property, including a parking lot and the site of nine homes that had been purchased and razed by the city.

Ample parking provided

Combined with the city’s parking lot for a transit hub there for the ChicaGo Dash and V-Line bus services, the property will have 895 available spaces for shared parking, more than enough to meet city standards.

The nature of the property, being a distillery, means alcohol will be served at events. That rules out holding most big corporate and nonprofit events there, Leeth said.

“You’re always going to have weddings, and you’re always going to have anniversaries,” he said. “These are almost always going to be party-type events” because of the alcohol.

“We think the guests at the event are going to be carpooling,” using a ride-sharing service like Uber or Lyft, riding a bus, or going with a designated driver, Leeth said. That will limit the demand for parking spaces, he predicted.

The project didn’t receive negative comments during the public hearing held at the Plan Commission meeting.

Mayor Matt Murphy talks about the immediate future of the City of Valparaiso.

“This is gorgeous ... turning an eyesore into a beautiful property that all people can visit,” resident Robert Costino said.

Planning Director Beth Shrader is excited about seeing this project come to fruition. “It’s going to be fun to see it develop and assist in that,” she said.

Some elements of the project, including parking, stormwater and utilities, need a little more attention before it’s brought to the City Council for final approval, Shrader said.

“It’s exciting. It’s vibrant. What an investment in an older building,” Plan Commission President Matt Evans said. “The glass alone is very nice. It’s got a nice open area.”

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