A year after record rainfall sent a mudslide careening into the old Jordan Brewery, it sits vacant, its future in limbo.
No one knows whether the hillside behind the Civil War-era structure can be stabilized.
The uncertainty has dampened the spirits of both a microbrewer who was ready to open a taproom there and Jordan city officials, who were counting on the reopened brewery as the centerpiece of their downtown revitalization project.
“The building itself is just an iconic, beautiful brewery,” said Kathleen Klehr, executive director of the Scott County Historical Society. “If it wasn’t there, it would be a huge loss.”
Local officials are hoping that a $100,000 boost from the Legislature will help them find a way forward. The money, part of a bill that helps businesses damaged by heavy rain last June, will be used to study the hillside. The work to determine whether the slope can be stabilized could begin as soon as this summer, said Kevin Breeggemann, the property’s co-owner.
“That’s been the toughest part about this,” said Breeggemann. “I can fix the building — I’m a contractor. But we can’t do anything about it until the hill is fixed.”
But the fix won’t come cheap, if it comes at all. A proposed retaining wall is estimated at $2 million to $7 million, not including the repair of the brewery itself, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s unclear where those millions would come from.
“From what we’re told, it’s going to be more money than the city of Jordan is going to want to put toward the project,” said Tom Nikunen, Jordan’s city administrator, adding that the property owners don’t have millions of dollars for repairs.
Jordan, a south-metro city with about 5,500 people, is in the midst of plans to fix up its downtown. It has spruced up sidewalks with landscaping and repaved streets with the goal of bringing in new businesses, especially restaurants, shops and wine bars, said Nikunen.
There will be updated signs, including placards, to highlight the city’s 15 properties on the National Register. Officials even hope to create a museum downtown, he said.
The Jordan Brewery, with a new microbrewery taproom as a tenant, was supposed to be a catalyst for the makeover, Nikunen said. But the mudslide changed those plans.
‘Been there forever’
The question of what will become of the old brewery still looms large. It’s one of the first buildings people see as they drive into town, and Nikunen said it is still included in the city’s master plans.
“It’s special because it’s been there forever,” said the historical society’s Klehr.
The three-story brewery building has survived several owners, Prohibition and a fire.
“I would love to see it preserved and reused,” Klehr said.
When the mudslide hit, Tim Roets was just months away from opening a microbrewery and taproom on the first floor of the Jordan Brewery. Roets, a microbrewer for 32 years, loved the space, especially the caves carved into the hillside to keep beer cool.
“[Lagering caves] are about as sexy as it gets for beer,” Roets said. “You can’t believe how cool it was.”
But after the landslide, everyone had to leave the building. People who lived in the upper-floor apartments moved out, and Roets considered abandoning his taproom plans.
But Nikunen didn’t want Roets to go elsewhere.
“We tried to reach out to him to say, ‘We still want you in Jordan. What can we do to make that happen?’ ” Nikunen said.
Beer at the library
They found a new home for the taproom — the old city-owned Scott County Library building. The city, which had already been considering a library renovation, agreed to pitch in $40,000 to transform it into Roets’ taproom, Nikunen said.
Roets is now in the same position as last June, working toward his taproom’s debut. He hopes to have a flagship beer and a few seasonal choices on tap in a couple of months. But he won’t say when it will open.
“I’m not saying any more dates, because the last time I did, we had a landslide,” he said.