GREEN BAY – With the toss of some dirt and the tapping of a golden keg, the transformation of an old downtown cannery into a unique, multi-use property begins.
"It's amazing what this is going to look like in August," said Mayor Jim Schmitt at Tuesday’s official groundbreaking at the old Larsen Canning factory in the Broadway District.
With city leaders in tow, Titletown's owner Brent Weycker acknowledged the building isn't much to look at.
"I'm going to have everyone put on their imagination caps," Weycker joked with the crowd, pulling his hard hat to his head.
The roughly $3.5 million dream will expand brewing production and add a tasting room. Event, office and retail space will also be added; as well as a rooftop beer garden.
"We went into the plan with Titletown being a tap room, and a new brewery,” said Weycker. “And from there, it's kind of expected where people have been approaching us for offices downtown."
Funding for the project has been key.
"Old buildings are definitely a challenge," said Weycker.
But city and state dollars are helping.
Earlier this year, the state increased how much developers can get back in tax credits for renovating old buildings. The Titletown project was the first applicant and the first approved, to the tune of about $880,000; the city is chipping in up to $500,000.
Toasting to tourism dollars
"We're excited about this – kind of for two reasons," explained Greater Green Bay Convention and Visitors Bureau President Brad Toll, after the groundbreaking.
Toll says the building will provide additional attractions for conventions and serve as a tourist destination.
"The department of tourism – on their website – has microbrewery tours, places you can visit in Wisconsin,” said Toll. “We look forward to marketing this as a place for craft brewing fans."
The first phase of the project is being saddled with a tight timeline – less than five months – as events are already planned for August.
"Well, the nice thing is, is most of the building – everything – is built,” countered Weycker. “So the brewery might not be online for the wedding, but we've got spaces – the spaces that are for the wedding."
Weycker says the severe winter and frozen ground pushed the start of new construction back.
A second project phase plans to add apartments.