A long-awaited brewery and event centre is becoming a reality, but questions linger over parking and traffic.
The developers and brewmaster of Lumberjack Brewing came before council’s committee of the whole on Aug. 14 with a building permit request and presentation on their vision for the proposed venue.
The new venue will be located at 125B Market Avenue and host a brewhouse, restaurant, top-floor patio with a view of the hills, catering and event centre on two storeys, said Dr. Mark Szynkaruk, one of the developers.
“We are requesting a permit for an unprecedented level of development in our downtown core,” he said. “We believe it is needed as a place for people to host gatherings and another place for people to go for dining. This location is the only suitable site for the downtown and we’ve spent two years acquiring the land.”
He added they’ve invested $3.5 million in this project, so far.
Construction is expected to take about two-to-three years, according to the proposal documents, and will have one of the largest industrial kitchens in the Boundary.
The location is also important as it’s a historical building, Szynkaruk added, and includes a 125-year-old beam structure they are keen to preserve.
Councillor David Mark asked if any demolition would take place. Szynkaruk said only a concrete planter and half of the previous McKewan Building would be taken down as it wasn’t part of the original structure.
On construction, the plan is to not just preserve the building’s heritage but augment it. Szynkaruk said the building designs are inspired by the lumber industry, which historically has been a major economic driver for the city since its inception.
The menu will feature what Szynkaruk called “approachable” dining. Half of the menu will be pub-style and the other half will be considered finer food.
The beer menu will include four core beers, four seasonal and eventually around 12 taps, said brewmaster Sam Noble.
“We are planning on having guest taps come in from other breweries and I’m working on some seltzers we would like to offer as an alternative to beer,” he said.
During the regular council meeting, it was stressed by councillors they would love to see another downtown venue, but were concerned over the effect it would have on parking.
Councillor Neil Krog pointed out there usually is a parking variance and a venue like this will need about 25 spaces, with a total cost of $25,000 to reserve those.
On top of that, about 10 spaces would already be taken for staff parking.
“I love this idea, but I can see parking being an issue,” said Krog. “We are waiving the need for spaces, but historically businesses provide money to provide parking elsewhere, like behind the fire hall. There used to be businesses there that had a specific number of spaces. If we are saying they don’t have to provide money for spaces, staff should not park in the public spaces they want.”
He added he knows this would be hard to enforce, but the developers need to make sure they are not taking spaces for other business customers.
Grand Forks chief administrative officer Duncan Redfearn said the decision before council is about approving a permit based on form and character, not about parking. However, the developers are trying to use the property they have as much as possible, including parking around the building.
Councillor Rod Zielinski pointed out this could be a problem because it could attract so many downtown that it would discourage people from coming if there isn’t enough parking for other businesses. He suggested either the developers lease a city-owned lot, or pay to pave for more spaces in a nearby alleyway.
Mayor Everett Baker said they would be moving ahead with approval on form and character, remove-off-street parking variance, but encourage staff to meet with developers for parking options, including paving.
The motion passed with a stipulation the permit not be approved until a security of $1,021.88 is paid, which is 125 per cent cost for planting material, including mulch and topsoil to be held for one-year, one growing season after approval.
Council also passed a motion for staff to look into encroachment of an awning over the sidewalk of the property.