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VOL. 129 | NO. 49 | Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Tennessee Brewery Plan Unveiled

By Andy Meek

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Memphis businessman Taylor Berger is part of a team preparing to take short-term ownership of the Tennessee Brewery Downtown, with plans to bring a variety of community-focused uses to the site from roughly the last weekend in April through the last weekend in May.

Memphis businessman Taylor Berger is part of a team preparing to take short-term ownership of the Tennessee Brewery Downtown, with plans to bring a variety of community-focused uses to the site starting at the end of April through the end of May.

(Daily News File/Andrew J. Breig)

The events could involve a beer garden, food trucks and possibly live music. The details are still taking shape, but one thing the team behind them hopes they’ll collectively represent is an indicator about what’s possible for the long-vacant historic landmark by thinking small and creatively instead of holding out for a wholesale, top-dollar redevelopment that might not materialize.

“We don’t know what its future will be, but some of my friends were hanging out and started thinking about how we might do something with that building – right now,” said Berger, who announced general details of the effort at the Tuesday, March 11, monthly meeting of the South Main Association.

“The plan right now is we will take possession of the brewery for about six weeks this spring. And we’ll operate it as a really fun place.”

The events that take place there could fall within the month-long Memphis in May International Festival, in which the three most popular events – the Beale Street Music Festival, the International Barbecue Cooking Contest and the Sunset Symphony – take place in nearby Tom Lee Park.

The short-term arrangement at the brewery is a variation on the MemSHOP concept pioneered by the Mayor’s Innovation Delivery Team, which involves opening storefront businesses on a short-term basis to create momentum in an area. The team is among those playing a role in the unfolding plans for the brewery, as is doug carpenter & associates llc.

In January, the owners of the brewery building in the South Main Historic Arts District said they were considering a demolition contract for the building and would decide its fate by February or March. That was according to their broker, Rasberry CRE principal James Rasberry.

“If someone doesn’t come forward, we’ll probably go ahead and demolish it,” Rasberry said in January.

The possibility of demolition was mentioned in hopes it might emphasize the urgency to come up with a plan to save the building. Indeed, underscoring the challenge of a complete remake of the brewery, Downtown Memphis Commission president Paul Morris told The Daily News at the time that the cost of rehabilitating and redeveloping the brewery “well exceed the likely investment return.”

Developers have for years tried to come up with concepts that include turning the brewery into everything from condominiums to a hotel. Each time, they’ve run up against the same problems, such as the fact the brewery doesn’t have much in the way of developable land.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the brewery was built with wrought-iron railings that line the staircase inside, while presenting visitors with an imposing facade.

It was founded in 1885 by three men, one of whom came from a family in Germany that had brewed beer for 500 years.

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