Construction is expected to begin later this year on a $10 million redevelopment of a former shoe factory in Lebanon as a microbrewery and banquet facility also featuring restaurants or other retail options and projected to create as many as 175 jobs.
‘The Shoe’ is the working name of the proposed redevelopment of the one-time factory building at 120 E. South St., just southeast of the center of downtown Lebanon, within walking distance of the local tourist train, city hall, Golden Lamb Inn and proposed Mulberry Street Entertainment District.
Most recently an antique mall and flea market, the building has been vacant for about five years. The redevelopment plan was unveiled earlier this month for Lebanon City Council by a group headed by Nathan “Nate” Alexander.
Alexander is son of Keith Alexander, patriarch of the family behind businesses, including Rose & Remington women’s clothing and accessories stores, and owner of a number of commercial properties in Lebanon.
“This has really been a cooperative effort for our family and our vision,” the son said in opening a presentation on the development this month at Lebanon City Hall.
The Alexanders said they plan to invest about $2 million readying for occupancy the four-story building, on just over 0.6 acres at South and Cherry streets, according to county property records.
Ultimately they plan to add two elevators and make spaces for the microbrewery, restaurants and a banquet center, possibly even a rooftop bar or deli, spending “upwards” of $10 million, Nate Alexander said in an interview last week.
The parking lot for the L-shaped building would be converted to an atrium for live music and other outdoor events.
“That back area has so much potential,” Nate Alexander said.
Licenses permitting the on-premise sale of beer, wine and spirits until 1 a.m. are pending with the Ohio Division of Liquor Control, according to Lindsey LeBerth, public information officer for the Ohio Department of Commerce. But during his presentation, Alexander said he expected to close earlier than this.
Luxury apartments or a micro-hotel might also work in the building or surrounding properties, he added.
Alexander said they had been in contact with the Harmon Civic Trust about using adjoining parking when it was not in use for sporting or other events across South Street. The Lebanon, Mason & Monroe tourist train station in Lebanon is just west of the parking lot, next to ball fields, a city park and multi-use trail.
“You have the advantage of a park-like setting,” Councilman Jeff Aylor said.
Last week, Alexander said the “build-out” would begin this summer and the microbrewery should be open in a year to 14 months.
The meeting discussion turned to the development, along with existing recreational and entertainment options, keeping closer to home residents who now travel to Mason, Austin Landing or the Over the Rhine (OTR) neighborhood in Cincinnati.
Alexander talked of a “‘family-friendly’ OTR” and said, “I’ve got Uber coming to Lebanon.”
The Shoe and other venues could help create a range of opportunities keeping Lebanon residents, particularly younger ones, in town, as well as drawing people to the area, Aylor said.
“Do we really have a nucleus of things to keep them here?” he said.
Alexander and another company official pointed to Sierra Nevada, a California microbrewery, and MadTree, in Cincinnati, as examples they saw as models in setting up for production of craft beers, to be named after icons from Lebanon’s 200-plus year history. Semi- or annual beer festivals were proposed.
“One anchor can change everything,” Alexander said. “Hamilton (a Butler County city in a downtown redevelopment phase) is on fire right now.”
Alexander also referred to Valley Vineyards, a restaurant, winery and home to the Cellar Dwellers microbrewery, southeast of Lebanon.
Space could be leased at a discounted rate for a business incubator being discussed by the city, Alexander added.
Alexander projected 175 jobs would be created, resulting in a”long-term pay-off for Lebanon.”
The city recently shifted its income tax rate, assessing a 0.5 percent from residents living in Lebanon and working elsewhere, while continuing to collect 1 percent from people who work in the city.
Councilwoman Krista Wyatt and Councilman Jim Dearie questioned if the area could respond to demand for young workers for the businesses to be created.
Alexander, who lives in the Oakley, another neighborhood populated by young professionals in Cincinnati, pointed to their company’s recruiting firm.
“If you build it, they will come,” he said. “My plans are to move back to Lebanon.”
Alexander also referred to possible government assistance, such as a tax abatement, to help make the project a reality.
“There are incentive packages available,” City Manager Scott Brunka said.
In an email response to questions after the presentation, Brunka said, “The City continues to support the redevelopment of the Shoe Factory, but at this time there has not been a direct request from the developer for assistance. They continue to work through the various use concepts for the building, and associated construction costs. Once a more detailed plan is presented to the City, we will be able to evaluate the various economic development incentive tools that are available to support the project.”
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