Manhattan-based Ruckus Brewing, the company that hopes to resurrect beer production at Allentown’s long-dormant Neuweiler Brewery has until Dec. 15 to come up with the money to buy the property.
The Allentown Commercial Industrial Development Authority voted 5-0 to grant Ruckus 45 additional days to raise the $1.7 million it has agreed to pay for the 4.6-acre property. It is Ruckus’ second extension.
Joined by consultant Mike Fleck, who also manages Mayor Ed Pawlowski‘s mayoral and gubernatorial campaigns, Ruckus’ CEO Josh Wood said the company needs more time to put together its financing, including navigating the complex process required to tap tax dollars from the city’s Neighborhood Improvement Zone.
“We have been working hard, we will continue to work hard,” Wood said. “We are in it to win it.”
Ruckus’ ambitious $30 million Neuweiler project, called Brewers Hill, would take the long-vacant brick building and convert it to a working brewery that would crank out Ruckus’ line of microbrews in addition to contract brewing for other brewers. It would also include office space, a business incubator and a brew pub.
The company is applying to the Allentown Neighborhood Improvement Zone Development Authority for approval to use most of the state and local tax dollars generated by the project and its future tenants to defray construction costs.
That process has proven longer and more complicated than expected, Wood told the ACIDA board. Fleck quickly clarified that the holdup has been the complex application process, not the Neighborhood Improvement Zone board itself.
Even if that approval hasn’t been granted by Dec. 15, Ruckus may purchase the property using other funding if ANIZDA signals that its approval is likely, Wood and Fleck said.
“There is certainly every representation and everything I am seeing is representative of a good-faith effort on their part,” said ACIDA Executive Director Scott Unger.
Wood said the company still plans to open the brewery in 2014. By 2020, it hopes to employ about 50 people at an average wage of $50,000 a year. The company says converting other buildings in the complex to house retail, commercial and light-industrial tenants could mean 115 additional jobs.
Ruckus offered the city’s Commercial Industrial Development Authority $1.7 million for the brewery and the 4.6-acre property it is on in 2012 and signed an agreement of sale on the property in April. Its original closing deadline was in August.
The company is seeking up to $5.2 million in private investment from outside investors using ForeFund, a website that helps raise private capital, but Wood said that effort is somewhat experimental and not something he is counting on.
The property has bedeviled city officials’ redevelopment efforts for years. Its location in a distressed neighborhood and need for environmental cleanup, have been significant obstacles.
The towering brewery looms over a neighborhood whose residents are among Allentown’s poorest. More than 45 percent of families in the neighborhood fall below the poverty level — the median-household income is $21,913, according to U.S. Census figures.
The Neuweiler brewery opened for business in 1913 at Front and Gordon streets and closed its doors in 1968 as large breweries began to dominate the beer business.