Smylie Brothers Brewing Co. is seeking to bail out of its lease that would have turned Evanston's shuttered recycling center into a beer production facility and tap room.
City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz says, in a memo to aldermen ahead of Monday's City Council meeting, that Michael Smylie asked to withdraw from the agreement on April 10.
Just over two weeks later Smylie Brothers announced on social media that they'd opened a different new brewing facility in the former Aquanaut Brewing Company site at 5435 N. Wolcott Ave. in Chicago.
Smylie's new plant in Chicago, in an image posted to Smylie's Facebook page.
In his letter to the city, Smylie said he was "unable to raise sufficient funding" to complete the recycling center project.
Bobkiewicz says Smylie told city officials he had planned to have both the Aquanaut and recycling center facilities running side-by-side, but that a financial partner for the Oakton project backed out of the deal, and he was unable to line up new financing.
Bobkiewicz says city staff believes the city could hold Smylie to the terms of the lease, which call for payments of $163,750 per year for the next eight and a half years. Under the lease, which took effect on Jan. 1, 2017, Smylie Brothers doesn't have to start paying rent until July this year.
But in his memo Bobkiewicz recommends terminating the agreement anyway because Smylie "has no intention of completing the project" and it's theerfore in the best interest of the city to identify another productive use for the property.
He says staff has received inquiries from other potential users interested in turning the "highly desirable" property into a recreation facility or restaurant/event space.
He says the options for aldermen to consider include:
- launching a new request for proposals process to lease or sell the property,
- directly list the property for sale with future use to be determined by zoning regulations,
- reuse the building for city storage, or
- demolish it.
The Smylie Brothers deal was the result of a request for proposals process that was launched in May 2015. It took until December 2016 before the City Council authorized approval of the Smylie Brothers lease.
A July 2015 appraisal estimated the value of the property at $845,000.
Slow going for brewery deal with city (7/20/16)
Play ball inside recycling center? (1/21/11)
Carts bring end to recycling center (7/14/10)