A building that's more than a century old may come down to make way for an ambitious upgrade and expansion project at the Genesee Brewery on St. Paul Street.
Later this month, a city zoning panel will consider an application to demolish the red two-story building at 495 St. Paul St., which is part of the 27-acre brewery campus.
Representatives with North American Breweries said they worked hard to find ways to preserve the building. But ultimately, it has to come down to put up a new plant to capture carbon dioxide produced during the brewing process, the company said.
The proposal may stir memories of the 2012 fight over whether to preserve a former brewhouse on the Genesee campus at 13 Cataract St. Ultimately, it was demolished as part of a plan to convert another nearby building into what is now a restaurant, bar and visitors center.
But the situation with the smaller St. Paul building may be different.
The Landmark Society of Western New York supports the $39 million development plan at Genesee, and it isn't fighting the demolition. After the episode with the brewhouse, North American Breweries also has been trying to work closely with community groups to develop its plans, said brewery manager Mark Minunni.
"The neighbors are important to us," he said. "We talked to them very early on."
George Moses, executive director of North East Area Development, said Friday that his group supports the overall plan at Genesee and doesn't object to the demolition. He credited the brewery for keeping residents in the loop.
"There’s a vision for not just a regional attraction, but what I heard is a national attraction," Moses said.
Still, one neighborhood representative — Delaine Cook-Greene of the the Coalition of NorthEast Associations — said she wasn't familiar with the demolition and hopes to hear more from the brewery.
But there does not appear to be organized opposition.
"I think when you weigh the structure in question with the economic benefit and the potential that investment has on the entire St. Paul corridor, it’s something we felt from an organizational standpoint we really can’t oppose,” said Wayne Goodman, executive director of the Landmark Society.
The Greek Revival building on St. Paul was constructed in the mid- to late 1800s as a home and later housed a wagon and carriage company, according to the brewery and the Landmark Society.
It is included on a city list of designated buildings of historic value, along with more than 5,500 other structures. The Landmark Society will soon begin a project to re-survey properties of historic significance in the city and see whether buildings need to be removed or added from that list, according to Goodman.
The St. Paul building is not on the state or federal historic registers.
The brewery needs a variance from the city Zoning Board of Appeals to take down the structure. If approved, it would make way for the carbon dioxide recovery facility, which has to be adjacent to a new 130,000-square-foot production building planned for St. Paul Street with huge viewing windows, Minunni said.
To make way for the new building, which will house filtering equipment and tanks, the three huge tanks adorned with the labels of Genesee's three traditional beers will be demolished.
“We are building a building that’s going to make St. Paul Street a whole different view," he said.
A second phase of the plan, which is dependent on funding from the Upstate Revitalization Initiative, calls for transforming the brewery area into an "eco-brewery district." That phase also includes the potential for renovating another historic building on the campus and connecting it to the existing Brew House.