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Unread 2018-04-22, 02:59 PM   #1
JDLM
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Default Historic Imperial brewery on road to new life as redevelopment anchor

The old Imperial Brewing Co. building looms over Interstate 35 just south of Downtown as a long-vacant, fire-charred tribute to the city's golden age of breweries.
Now, progress is being made to complete restoration of the historic structure possibly as part of a new mixed-use development including parking and other outdoor features under the interstate.
The six-story brewery and an adjacent stables building, which once housed the mules and draft horses that pulled Imperial beer delivery carts, are today owned by Dean Realty Co., which also owns the Cambridge Business Park to the immediate south of the historic buildings.
Thanks to his late father, Dean Realty CEO Lester Dean Jr. said, his company also owns the land underneath I-35 next to the brewery buildings.
"We can utilize that land," Dean said. "We can't build a building there. But we can turn it into parking, a festival marketplace, string some lights. We can soften it with some brick pavers, some umbrellas and tables and have fun with the redevelopment of that whole area.
"The interstate acts as a cover from the elements, so it can be turned into a positive, and that's what we're going to do."
Dean said his company's involvement with the area he now envisions as a potential mixed-use development anchored by the historic brewery buildings dates to the 1960s, when Lester Dean Sr. was developing Dean's Downtown Business Park at 31st and Mercier streets and Dean's Downtown Underground, the nation's first subterranean business park, below it.
"From his proverbial perch, Dad was looking over at this ridge (where Cambridge Business Park now is)," his son recalled. "He was always thinking decades and decades ahead of where he was. So in the 1960s, he started acquiring what turned out to be in excess of 350 homes that were on this ridge, just one by one."



Interstate 35, which today separates Downtown Business Park and Cambridge Business Park, didn't exist. But Lester Sr. had a vision for that, too.
"So he hired a lobbying firm and sent them back and forth to the Department of Transportation in Washington, D.C., over a span of 11 years," Lester Jr. said. "And it's fairly well known that he was a causal effect in having I-35 run in between his two ridges, his two major real estate holdings.
"In return (for that I-35 routing), Dad gave them part of the land for I-35. But he did have one very important caveat: that he have a full diamond interchange built to access Cambridge (Business Park)."
And the elder Dean got one other concession: "We get to control that land under I-35 forever," his son said.
That's one of the reasons Dean Realty decided to acquire the adjacent brewery buildings in 2007, got them placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2011 and started the renovation and salvage efforts that were slowed by a 2012 fire but now have the brewery building "broom clean," Dean said.
"It's not for sale," he added of the historic property, noting that Dean Realty seldom sells any of the family business's holdings.
But Dean Realty might take on a joint-venture partner to help complete the brewery building's renovation and, perhaps, take part in the broader redevelopment, he said.
To help provide access to the redevelopment site, Dean Realty recently bought and scrapped the Quick Delivery building near the boulevard's intersection with Genessee Street at 1700 W. 29th St. And to help finance the redevelopment, Dean said, his firm may use proceeds from the rare sale of one of its properties. He said the 120-acre Solar Business Park at Interstate 435 and Truman Road in Jackson County and the 100 acres of mined-out space below it are now on the market for $5.1 million.




FLASHBACK: Imperial Brewery building may rise from ashes
Dean Realty's current estimate for completing renovation of the Imperial brewery building is $10 million to $15 million, Dean said, and he won't be ready to take that on until a tenant or tenants commit to occupancy.
"We're patient capital," he said, "so we don't do spec projects."
Fortunately for those eager to see the historic building revived, however, Dean Realty's marketing efforts have generated plenty of interest from potential users
"It could be lofts. It could be office. It could be manufacturing," Dean said. "But right now we've got a brewery looking at it. And we've got a hotel looking at it. In some form or fashion, we're going to get it redeveloped. We don't know how yet. But we've taken good steps to get it cleaned up and safe and largely secured."
During a 13-month salvage operation, Dean said, "we removed almost 1 million pounds of steel" from the brewery building.
Most of the steel remained in the structure from its past as a flour milling company between 1919, when Prohibition prompted the property's sale to Seaboard Milling Co., and the mid-1980s.
"There were flywheels, beams, steel rollers that ground the wheat, big huge motors and engines," Dean said. "There were also 40 grain silos at the back of the building that had to be demolished. Oh my gosh, it was staggering."
In 2012, in the midst of the salvage operation, "the guys were using a 10,000-degree plasma cutter because that's what it took to cut the steel," Dean said.
"The only two components in the entire building that had any wood in them were a couple of dilapidated roof sections, which we were going to remove anyway," he said. "And when they were cutting steel, an ember must have got into one of them. The guys thought they smelled burning wood, so they stayed an extra hour, and we looked and looked until we thought the coast was clear. But then the wind kicked up that night and the fire started."




Fortunately, the fire didn't diminish the building's structural integrity, Dean said.
"That whole building is like a fortress," he said. "It's concrete, steel-reinforced, brick, 2-foot-thick walls. I mean it is stout."
Located at 2825 Southwest Blvd., the Imperial brewery building was completed in 1902 by a group of St. Louis investors, then expanded by a two-story office addition and a two-story bottling area. In 1904, a 250-ton ice-making plant was added.
Imperial Brewing Co. offered two mainstay, lager-style brands Mayflower and Imperial Seal. But in December 1905, soon after Kansas City's largest brewing firm, the Ferd Heim Brewing Co., merged with another local firm, Rochester Brewing Co., the resulting Kansas City Breweries Co. bought up Imperial.
Subsequently, the old Imperial Brewing Co. building became known as the Rochester Brewery "B" Plant until the building's Prohibition-era conversion into a milling operation.
According to the form used to nominate the building for inclusion on the National Register, it was built by Ludwig D. Breitag, who used Romanesque Revival-style details in construction of the massive brick brew house with projecting center tower. In 1928, the brew house was topped by an additional floor, and around 1950 its power house was converted to grain storage.
"I'm telling you, it is a cool building," Dean said. "It's got 19-foot-tall ceilings, and the ceiling right underneath the penthouse is 27 feet tall."
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