A $3 million project to transform the city’s former Pump House into a brewhouse restaurant stands to become the second retail operation to receive a tax abatement in Columbus since 2014.
The Columbus City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to designate the Pump House property at 148 Lindsey St. as an economic development target area and an economic revitalization area.
The two designations are required before the council can consider giving a tax abatement for a retail development project. A second vote on the designations and a vote on the tax abatement are expected to come at the council’s next meeting on Dec. 1.
The designations and tax abatement are being requested by Tony Moravec and Moravec Realty LLC, along with Upland Brewing Co., which are partnering to transform the historic former utility building into a restaurant for Upland.
Moravec is seeking an abatement on an estimated $2.5 million in property improvements on the building in downtown Columbus, which most recently was used as a senior center. Upland is seeking an abatement on an estimated $800,000 in personal property investment.
The restaurant would provide $500,000 to $600,000 in payroll annually and another $300,000 to $400,000 in tips, said Doug Dayhoff, Upland Brewing Co. president.
He said Upland, based in Bloomington, has about 160 employees. It has two locations in Bloomington and one each in the Broad Ripple area of Indianapolis and Carmel.
Wages at the new restaurant in Columbus will start at $10 an hour and average $15 an hour or higher, he said. The restaurant expects to have about 30 employees, he said.
“We really try to be an employer of choice,” he said of expanding into the Columbus community. The restaurant will feature “from scratch” cooking — artisan food to complement artisan brews, he said.
Scaffolding currently surrounds the building, where workers are replacing the Pump House’s roof. Additionally, Moravec said some initial interior restoration work has begun. Moravec said he is working with Indiana Landmarks on the materials and renovation to make sure the building is restored within historical guidelines.
The Indiana Department of Natural Resources has sent a letter to Moravec Realty saying the property meets the criteria to be included in the National Register of Historic Places.
Moravec purchased the Pump House for $285,000 this year, the only proposal submitted to the city when it was advertised for sale. The structure, built in 1901 as the city’s water plant, has been vacant since 2011. It had been a senior citizens center for 25 years.
Despite its interior changes over the years, Moravec has said he plans to capitalize on the “bones” of the building, which he described as magical. He plans to keep the graceful arching windows and wide open spaces framed in original brick on the interior.
Dayhoff said Upland hopes to make the restaurant not just a local or statewide draw but a nationwide destination location for visitors to Columbus.
The restoration project has already run into one glitch, said George Breeden, who is supervising the Pump House project for Moravec. Remediation has begun to control erosion on the back of the building, which is on the bank of the East Fork White River.
The back of the building is the lowest part of the property, Breeden said, and a paved drive winds around the back to that part of the property. Water is running off the edge of that drive and eroding the bank area.
The Indiana Department of Environmental Management, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and Strand Engineering are working to fix the erosion problem, Breeden said.
City attorney Jeff Logston said the city has an economic development target area already designated in the downtown area, but the designation ended at Lindsey Street, which is next to the Pump House property. The Pump House was not included in the target area because it was city-owned and not a taxable property when the target area was designated, he said.
Logston also told the council that Moravec and Upland had filed a statement of benefits with the city prior to starting work on the property. The city requires the statement before a tax abatement is considered and before work begins on the project, he said.
Only one of three retail tax abatement requests have been approved by the council since 2014. Last year, the council approved a 10-year tax abatement for the new $20 million Kroger project on the 11.5-acre former Dolly Madison property at 3060 N. National Road. The abatement will save Kroger an estimated $618,000 in real property taxes over a decade. Two other requests, for an optical business and a Chevrolet dealership, did not receive approval in the abatement application process.
What: Restoration of the former city Pump House into an Upland Brewing Co. restaurant
Where: 148 Lindsey St., downtown Columbus
How much: Tony Moravec, who transformed Zaharako’s Ice Cream Parlor on Washington Street, and Upland Brewing Co., based in Bloomington, have partnered for the estimated $3 million renovation project.
What is planned: The Pump House renovation is expected to continue through next summer and possibly into early fall. Plans include extensive exterior and interior renovations, including having an outdoor deck overlooking the East Fork White River. The renovation hopes to incorporate some historical artifacts that might have once been in the building. Upland does not plan to brew beer at the site, but acknowledged there is room in the building for that if plans change in the future.
Workforce: An estimated 30 employees will be hired, with starting pay of $10 an hour and average wage of $15 an hour or higher.
History of the building: Columbus built the Pump House as the city’s water plant in 1901. It housed the city’s senior center from 1976 to 2011 and has been vacant since then. Chef Daniel Orr signed a lease with the city in July 2011 to turn the building into a brewhouse, but the city terminated the lease in 2013 when Orr failed to make progress on the project. Moravec bought the building for $285,000 early this year.