By Kevin Collison
The co-founder of Jacob Rieger & Co. distillery is pursuing a visionary concept to renovate the historic Heim Brewery Building in the East Bottoms as a catalyst to re-energize the old Electric Park area.
The $11.3 million redevelopment proposal being pursued by Andy Rieger tentatively calls for the brick building at 507 Montgall Ave. to be renovated into offices, retail and distillery space, and become the hub of what he’d like to rebrand the “Electric Park” neighborhood.
“He hopes the project is the catalyst for other developers,” architect Kevin Harden of GastingerWalker told the board of the Planned Industrial Expansion Authority.
Rieger was unable to attend the PIEA meeting. The Riegers-Electric Park proposal was described as being in its preliminary stage.
The brothers financed construction of a streetcar connecting the park to downtown Kansas City and it was a popular destination, particularly for working class Kansas Citians, until Prohibition shut down the brewery.
In its heyday, fresh beer was piped from the brewery to the park and its extravagance of electric lights were a dazzling novelty.
These days, the vacant, three-story brewery building is just across the railroad tracks from Knuckleheads Saloon, a popular live music venue, and across the street from The Local Pig, a culinary destination.
Most of the area beyond those attractions however, is impoverished and the neighborhood has experienced substantial blight.
Regier has been granted a 25-year property tax abatement from the PIEA, 10 years at 100 percent and 15 years at 50 percent, to help finance his redevelopment plan. He also was granted a $5 million revenue bond.
The necessary private financing still is being pursued for the proposal.
Harden said the Heim building redevelopment proposal also calls for the use of historic tax credits. The brewery building opened in 1901.
The distillery already has operations in a warehouse next door to the historic Heim building at 2700 Guinotte Ave. which would be incorporated into the project.
An estimated 50 permanent jobs would be created by J. Rieger & Co., according to the development proposal.
According to documents, the plan for the Heim building calls for 31,000 square feet of light manufacturing, 14,000 square feet of retail, 4,000 square feet of office, 10,000 square feet of patio and 40,000 square feet of paved parking.
The development plan also stated the Electric Park concept has the support of the city, the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce and VisitKC.
Jacob Rieger & Co. was originally founded in the West Bottoms in 1887. Like Heim Brewery, it was a casualty of Prohibition in 1919.
The company was restarted in 2014 and its product line, which is distributed in 20 states, features high-quality bourbon, whiskey, vodka and gin.
Ultimately, the Regier proposal envisions Electric Park becoming a popular recreational destination again, this time for the entire region.
“The company’s success has afforded it the opportunity to … create a catalytic investment for the neighborhood by ensuring its redevelopment draws the public from both sides of the stateline and beyond,” according to development plan.
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