The 109-year-old Hastings Brewery Building in downtown Hastings and an empty lot northwest of Heartwell Park will each be transformed into affordable housing projects facilitated by the Community Redevelopment Authority.
The brewery building at 219 W. Second St. was built in 1907 by the Hastings Brewing Company. It — along with the Bottling Works Building just to the west, which was constructed in 1910 — will be developed by Cohen-Esrey Affordable Partners of Mission, Kansas, into 35 one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments called the Brewery Lofts as part of an $8 million historic renovation project.
The empty lot between 12th and 14th streets and Eastside Boulevard and Minnesota Avenue is being transformed by Mesner Development of Central City into a $5.2 million low to moderate income senior housing project with 14 duplexes and 28 units called East Side Estates.
“It’s great that it’s housing because that’s a huge need right now in our community,” CRA executive director Randy Chick said.
Chick took the projects before the Hastings Planning Commission earlier this month, seeking rezoning for the brewery building from light industrial to commercial business and a plan modification for East Side Estates.
“If Cohen-Esrey Affordable Partners doesn’t do this project, I have no idea who does,” Chick said then about the Brewery Lofts. “We’re very excited about this and certainly appreciate your support on the rezoning.”
The planning commission’s recommendation of approval for each of the projects comes as Hanna:Keelan Associates, P.C. is wrapping up a Hastings housing study that was launched in late 2015.
The Hastings Brewery Building’s application for the National Register of Historic Places — prepared in 2015 for the Adams County Historical Society by Spencer Preservation of Wamego, Kansas — describes the building, at the southwest corner of Second Street and Minnesota Avenue, as a large red brick late Victorian industrial building varying in height from two to four stories with a prominent large round smokestack rising above the roofline.
The application states that the building is a rare Nebraska example of a pre-prohibition American brewery, a unique industrial building type that depicts a German eclectic style called Rundbogenstile that combines Renaissance and Romanesque details characterized primarily by round-arched opening, symmetrical composition and corbelled brickwork.
Repurposing the former warehouse follows a nationwide trend, as well as continues the development over the last 10 years of upper-level living spaces in downtown Hastings.
“I think it helps retain younger people who want that kind of style, potentially even empty nesters who may not want to deal with the yards and that kind of stuff any more,” Chick said. “They’re about two blocks from our core area. So it’s pretty easy to walk to the different restaurants and shops and entertainment venues we have downtown. It’s great to have people living right there, spending some of their dollars downtown rather than driving somewhere else.”
The Hastings Brewing Company began operation Feb. 12, 1908, with the first product released in May. According to a report in American Brewers Review, the plant was regarded as “one of the finest and most modern in the state.”
The brewery produced beers such as Prairie Pride Beer and Personal Liberty Brew.
After Prohibition went into effect in Adams County in May 1917, the company was hastily organized into the Hastings Cream and Beverage Company, manufacturing ice cream and “non-intoxicating” beverages. Efforts were met with limited success and the plant went idle on Nov. 30, 1919.
Kauf and Rinderspacher Inc. bought the brewery on Dec. 11, 1923, and converted it into a wholesale and distribution plant, using it until 1979.
Expansions were added to the building by K&R Food Products in 1924, 1930 and 1945 to accommodate the business’ growing meat processing and wholesale grocery businesses.
The 1980 Hastings city directory lists the building as Hastings Cold Storage.
Hastings Cold Storage sold the property in 1988 to T&T Enterprises.
It was used as office space for Terry’s Electric and Di Martino Mechanical Contracting.
Chick said none of the upper-level space has been used for a long time.
He said he believes Cohen-Esrey will close on the building in the fall and clear out the inside of the building over the winter.
“This project will utilize historic tax credits, so it’s going to be a historical preservation project,” he said. “So they have a lot of work to do with the State Historic Preservation Office and lot of architecture work that will be going on in the next three or four months.”
The smokestack also will be part of the restoration effort.
“It certainly is a big part of the historic nature of the building,” Chick said.
Development of the empty lot northwest of Heartwell Park has been a goal for Chick for a long time.
“We’ve been talking to people for the last four or five years to try and get some interest and try to find a quality project for that site,” he said.
The East Side Estates project includes the installation of municipal water lines, sanitary sewer lines, natural gas lines and the hard-surfaced paving of Minnesota Avenue from 13th to 14th streets, which is currently gravel. The improvements will be paid for with Tax Increment Financing.
Chick said he thinks construction will start there in July or August.
“It’s restricted,” he said. “It’s a little narrow because Hastings Utilities and the city of Hastings will be keeping quite a bit of ground to the east side for utility development and expansion of the trail but the key is having that much ground in the heart of your community, that doesn’t happen very often. So it’s a perfect project in that regard.”