A 120-year-old building on Newcastle Street in downtown Brunswick has been approved for demolition.
The building, a two-story brick property at 1317 Newcastle St., was approved for tear-down by the Brunswick Historic Preservation Board at its meeting June 4. No further approval, other than a city demolition permit, is required. As of press time, city officials had not received a permit application.
Once retail space on the first floor and a hotel on the second, the building is today owned by 1317 Newcastle LLC. The LLC is a holding company for four business partners who plan to build a brewery, biergarten and tasting room on the site. The brewery will operate under the name Silver Bluff Brewing Co.
Although the company has been given the go-ahead to demolish the building, Chris Moline, one of the business partners, said options for rehabilitating the building are still being explored. He said Monday demolition is not imminent, but may be possible.
“While beer is extremely important to us, playing a small role in the revitalization of downtown Brunswick has always been one of our main goals with this endeavor,” Moline said in a statement Tuesday on behalf of his business partners. “We are very eager to open, but getting the building right is one of our top priorities.”
A study done in May by the Savannah-based architectural firm The Spriggs Group found significant structural problems with 1317 Newcastle St. The building today is a shell of its former self, and needs nearly $900,000 in repairs to become viable, the firm’s study found. That cost does not include other work, like installing plumbing, electrical conduit or climate control. The Glynn County Tax Assessor’s office values the 10,000 square foot property at $118,700. 1317 Newcastle LLC purchased the parcel in March 2017 for $425,000.
The greatest damage to 1317 Newcastle St. is on the building’s Grant Street-facing side. A portion of the roof has collapsed, as well as a two-story wall. The roof is considered unserviceable and its failure has allowed rainwater to cause further damage, according to the study by The Spriggs Group.
Moline was quick to quell criticisms of the building’s potential demolition. He said he and his business partners understand the historic aspect of the structure, and had originally intended to rehabilitate it. However, that prospect may be cost prohibitive. Moline and his partners have already purchased and fabricated brewing equipment, which is ready to ship, and construction of the brewery facilities “is imminent.”
Should the company tear the building down, Moline said the plan is to rebuild a façade that mimics the 1888 building, and possibly re-use its bricks.
Constructing a new building could be far more cost effective for the project and enable it to come to fruition.
Kate Sabbe of Prince Street, a member of the Brunswick Historic Preservation Board, said she was conflicted in voting against the demolition. She voted against the motion, which was approved 5-2. Board member Will Worley also voted for denial.
The board previously voted to deny the building’s demolition in February 2016.
“I was really torn,” Sabbe said. “Does the building have more life in it, or is it better for all of Brunswick to have something in that lot that’s been vacant for so long? It’s hard.”
Sabbe said the board deliberated for nearly an hour and a half before voting to allow the demolition.
Lulu Williamson of Albany Street, also a member of the historic board, said she voted in favor of demolition because she saw a greater need for economic revitalization.
“I think that building is past the point of no return,” Williamson said. “At some point, it’s about the greater good. ... I think everybody in Brunswick wants to see downtown thrive. I live in downtown Brunswick. We need more businesses and people like Chris (Moline) to take a risk on Brunswick.”
Silver Bluff Brewing Co. is a partnership between Moline, his wife Allyson Moline, and brothers Jeff Coyle and Kevin Coyle.
In 2006, the façade of a building adjacent to 1317 Newcastle St. collapsed. No one was injured. That building was razed.