Planning Commission okays site plan for new brewery on Post Street

Planning Commission okays site plan for new brewery on Post Street
The former Pure Gas station on Post Street that has been vacant for 20 years may be rezoned as a PUD and become a brewery if the City agrees.

A historic structure on Post Street is one step closer to being repurposed into a
new brewery.

In late July, the Jacksonville Planning Commission unanimously approved the site plan and standards to turn the property into a planned unit development (PUD). The zoning application is expected to be heard by the City Council’s Land Use and Zoning Committee (LUZ) Tuesday, Aug. 4. 

The historic structure was built in 1935 and was once part of a chain of Pure Oil gas stations before being turned into the Purple Petunia, a flower shop, which went out of business 20 years ago, said Jack Shad, an agent for Andrew Suslak and Brandon Merkle, owners of the property. The 1,400-square foot building, which has remained vacant for two decades, requires a complete renovation, and the owners’ plan to restore the historic charm and architecture of the original Pure Gas building, Shad said.

Both Suslak and Merkle grew up in the Riverside neighborhood, love the historic appearance of the building, and have been doing home brewing for years,” Shad said, noting the name of the business, if approved by the city, will be Post-Modern Brewing. A complete renovation of the building is expected to take six months, he said.

“One of the things we have tried to get across to the city is that the building is more historic than people realize. Pure Oil was one of the first companies to use architecture to realize their brand. They were pioneers of this in the 1930s when people were just beginning to travel from city to city in cars and Post Street was part of the U.S. highway system,” he said.

In the Planning Commission’s virtual meeting, which was held on Zoom, Riverside Avondale Preservation (RAP) supported the plan with a few conditions that were meant to protect the residential neighborhood east of the proposed development, said Warren Jones, executive director of RAP.

“Riverside Avondale Preservation is very pleased that the new owners were interested in restoring the historically significant Post Street property after it has been vacant for many years,” Jones said. “RAP wants to support local businesses and our neighborhood by advocating for balance and compatible scale in this type of project. We have worked with the owners on a set of conditions we ask of proposed businesses in residential areas.”

The brewery is proposed to have 64 seats with 28 of those positioned outside. Because it is located in a residential area, RAP had expressed concerns that outside conversations and music could easily be heard by residents, especially at night, so it requested no amplified music be played outside and that outdoor sales end at 10 p.m., Jones said, noting the owners have agreed to these stipulations.

However, the owners did not agree to RAP’s request for a midnight closing time inside the structure and a cap on the number of seats above their originally proposed 64 seats that includes a cap of 28 seats outside.  RAP had requested the seating be capped due to the amount of parking required for additional seating, Jones said.

In their original written description to the City dated May 5, the owners requested that they be able to reduce the on-site parking from the required 19 spaces – one for every four seats – to nine spaces for 64 seats. In a revised written description submitted just before the meeting, due to right-of-way restrictions required by the city’s traffic division, the owners requested five parking spaces, or four less on-site spaces – for the same 64 seats, which equates to one parking space per 13 seats.

“Instead of the cap on outside seating RAP requested, the owners indicate that if they are able to find parking contiguous to the property they can add unlimited seating at a ratio of four seats per parking space and at least most of that will be outside,” Jones said, in the RAP newsletter. 

RAP’s position is that any additional on-site parking should not be used to gain additional seats. Additional parking should be used to alleviate potential on-street parking issues in the neighborhood and keep the use more of a neighborhood-scale activity, Jones said.

During the virtual Planning Commission meeting six residents spoke during the public comment section – four in favor and two against the project. The residents who spoke in favor of the project expressed an interest in having the brewery within walking and biking distance of their homes, Shad said.

“If we can add more parking, we think any additional outdoor seating will be an amenity to the people in the neighborhood,” Shad said.

“On balance, Riverside Avondale Preservation appreciates the commitment of the owners to revitalize this historic structure but believes RAP’s recommended conditions are important to the success of the project,” Jones said.

By Marcia Hodgson
Resident Community News

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