Stone Brewing Co. officials decided to back off plans to convert a riverfront warehouse into a massive restaurant after they realized the price tag would top $21 million, company representatives told Richmond’s Economic Development Authority on Thursday.
Stone is seeking permission from the City Council to instead demolish the 1937 building at Richmond’s former Intermediate Terminal and build a new structure that would more closely match the project’s $8 million budget.
“We did not take this lightly and we spent a lot of our own money to make this work,” the brewery’s community relations manager, Juliellen Sarver, told the board, which is overseeing the economic development deal that brought the company to Richmond.
The company’s Greater Fulton brewery opened in 2016, and Stone previously had hoped to open the nearby restaurant by the end of this year.
Last summer, the company unveiled a dramatic rendering of how it hoped to use the building, which it had promised to renovate as part of its agreement with the city. The rendering showed floor-to-ceiling windows facing the river, balconies and an adult slide.
But architect Robert Tierney said that more and more problems surfaced as work progressed: All the west-facing glass, which would replace cinder blocks, and the overall absence of insulation meant the building would require a massive heating and cooling system that the building’s roof could not support.
Because the building is on stilts in a flood plain, the equipment couldn’t go in the ground.
Other structural issues included the discovery that the building’s concrete footings were not reinforced with steel, a finding he characterized as “not great.”
He said the company has not yet started designing what a new structure would look like, but said the company is exploring ways to salvage elements of the existing building, which is at 3101 E. Main St.
The EDA’s executive director, Jane Ferrara, said the city has hired a firm to review and document the building’s history in an effort to assess its historic value — a step the preservation group Historic Richmond had requested.
The organization’s director, Cyane Crump, wrote in a letter to council members that the organization is “terribly saddened” by the plan to demolish the structure but that if there is no way to save the building, the city should conduct an architectural and archaeological study and require public review of the new design.
“Its location is very important both because of the ongoing efforts to revitalize Richmond’s riverfront and because it is located within the viewshed of the ‘View that named Richmond,’ ” Crump wrote, referring to the vista from Libby Hill Park that historic preservationists say reminded William Byrd II of Richmond-Upon-Thames in London.
The City Council has thus far deferred any action on Stone’s request for permission to demolish the structure. It’s scheduled to go before the council again next month.
Because Stone agreed to renovate the building as part of its performance agreement with the city but has since said it’s too expensive, EDA officials said it’s unclear what would happen if the city denied the request.
“I don’t think anybody knows,” said Chairman Julious P. Smith. “That’s where we’d have to call [our lawyer].”