Plans to build a new small brewery and taproom in a renovated former Bigelow Boiler Factory building on River Street won two key city approvals, as the transformation of Fair Haven’s former industrial riverfront continues to take shape.
During Wednesday night’s latest regular monthly City Plan Commission meeting, which spanned four and a half hours online on Zoom, local land-use commissioners unanimously approved the site plan and coastal site plan for the construction of the brewery at 190 River St.
The application came from Armada Brewing‘s John Kraszewski, who plans to convert the two-story former industrial building at the corner of Lloyd and River Streets into a venue for brewing, selling, and consuming beer.
“So you make the beer, you package the beer, you store the beer, and you sell the beer” all from this one location on River Street? City Plan Commission Chair Leslie Radcliffe asked.
That’s the plan, Kraszewski replied. He said his company will keep its current manufacturing facility in East Haven running. That’s a larger-scale operation where beer is brewed at scale and loaded onto big box trucks to be distributed to bars and retail outlets across the region.
This River Street brewery is envisioned as a smaller outpost with a focus on retail: People will be able to come in and buy four packs or bottles to take home. They’ll also be able to stay put and drink a beer or two on site.
Wednesday night’s approvals come as a derelict former industrial stretch of River Street is on the brink of tectonic changes.
Right next door to the planned future home of Armada Brewery, the city is currently demolishing four collapsing, decrepit, environmentally contaminated, and historically significant former Bigelow Boiler Factory buildings. Further east on River Street, New England Brewing Co. is vying to relocate from Woodbridge and build out a much larger brewery and taproom. And still further down the street, Jaigantic Studios proposed to build out a new movie studio and “creative studio district.”
That potential River Street efflorescence has led to tense community management team meetings as future tenants of the district jostle for space and public support.
According to Armada’s site plan application, the renovation plans will include the building out of a small, seven-barrel brewhouse area within 1,500 square feet of the back portion of the first floor, and a taproom in the front portion. Customers will be able to walk in, order beer at the bar, and then sit down at one of the seven tables and 28 seats on the first floor. There will also be a to-go fridge on that floor.
The second floor will consist of an additional 1,500 square feet of taproom space, as well as 800 square feet of office space for Armada.
“This area is more of a lounge-y area,” Kraszewski said Wednesday night, with a total of 40 seats spread out across four-person tables, two-person tables, and the upstairs bar.
The brewery’s coastal site plan application states that the building’s first floor has already had its utilities raised above the flood level, and that all doors will be dry flood proofed with additional doors to be closed in the event of flooding. “The site has been graded to allow the flood waters to drain to a catch basin and away from the site into the storm drainage system. The catch basin has a gross particle separator to remove particulates.”
The applications also states that there are already 19 on-site parking spaces at 190 River St., and that up to 15 people will be hired to work at Armada over the next two years, according to the application.
Construction on the new brewery should begin this fall, and should be complete by next spring. The brewery’s application for a special exception to allow for the manufacturing of beer at 190 River St. is slated to be heard by the city’s Board of Zoning Appeals on Sept. 29.