Plans to convert a historic former St. Paul fire station into a craft brewery and restaurant is adding to the momentum of an emerging “brewery cluster” along and near the city’s W. 7th Street corridor.
The St. Paul City Council last week awarded “tentative developer” status to a local husband-and-wife team with experience in both restaurant operations and craft beer production to purchase and renovate the vacant Fire House No. 10 at 754 Randolph Av., portions of which date to 1885.
Should Travis and Justine Temke ultimately follow through on their proposal for the 9,600-square-foot building two blocks west of 7th Street, they would be joining a list of brewers in an area where craft beer production is contributing to what city officials see as a dynamic economic development cluster.
Travis Temke, 38, has a résumé that includes launching franchised restaurants and co-founding Faribault-based F-Town Brewing Co., which has operated a brewery and taproom in the southern Minnesota city since 2015. F-Town’s brands have developed a statewide distribution network.
The couple’s $1.8 million concept for the former firehouse includes a full-production brewery, which will produce new craft brews as well as F-Town-branded beers on a contract basis for distribution throughout the Twin Cities metro area; a full-service restaurant featuring an ever-changing “farm-to-table” menu focusing on “comfort food with a twist”; and a separate, full-scale coffee shop.
The plans also call for a 1,500-square-foot addition at the rear of the building to house the beer production facilities and the restaurant’s kitchen. The fire station’s second level is to be converted into an event space capable of hosting parties of up to 200 people with access to a new rooftop patio; a landscaped “green patio” will be created along one the building edges.
The restaurateurs say their project would create up to eight full-time jobs and as many as 18 part-time positions, with more possible as F-Town beer expands its distribution territory.
St. Paul city project manager Ross Currier said that should the Fire House No. 10 project proceed, it would join the Waldmann Brewery, Summit Brewing Co., Bad Weather Brewing Co., and the upcoming Clutch Brewing Co. at the Keg and Case Market as members of the emerging W. 7th Street brewing cluster.
Temke spent part of his childhood in the city’s Highland Park neighborhood and now lives in the Cherokee Park area of St. Paul’s West Side. He said the historic flavor of W. 7th has always appealed to him.
“It’s the oldest corridor in the city, going all the way back to the fur traders,” he said. “It has such a long history of retail and industry. And the firehouse itself is a beautiful structure — it already even looks like a brewery. With its ceiling heights, it’s ideal to house a production brewery.”
The building was an active fire station until 2010, when its engines were transferred to a new station at the Randolph-W. 7th intersection. Since then, it has been used for storage. Its main historical significance is in the context of race relations: In 1947, it became St. Paul’s first racially integrated fire station.
The city decided to sell the property in May and received 12 offers for its purchase and reuse. Using criteria such as the price offered and the number of jobs to be created, the developer status was awarded to the Temkes, who now have 180 days to complete the purchase and finalize their financing.
The project will also need to obtain a “historic use variance” — a relatively new option in St. Paul by which a historically designated building in any zoning district may be operated as a business if it is being used as a means of preserving it character. This option was employed by the owner of Waldmann Brewery & Wurstery on nearby Smith Avenue, in which an 1857 limestone building was converted into an authentic Civil War-era German lager house.
Don Jacobson is a freelance writer based in St. Paul. He is the former editor of the Minneapolis-St. Paul Real Estate Journal.