Several years ago, while enjoying a pint at a local beer garden, David Kahley thought if one brewery could draw droves of customers to a neighborhood, imagine what three in one building could do.
The tiny seed of an idea blossomed into a four-story, 20,000-square-foot project in Hazelwood.
“We’re going big,” says Kahley, president and CEO of The Progress Fund, a nonprofit community development financial institution.
Construction starts in about a month and by next fall he plans to raise another glass, at the grand opening. Kahley has trademarked the names Hazelwood Brewing Co. and Hazelwood Beverage Co.
Each brewery — there are more than a half-dozen vying for a spot — will have its own ground-floor bay accessible via garage doors that will house separate, seven-barrel brewing systems. The equipment will be owned by The Progress Fund and leased to the brewers. The businesses will share a third-floor tasting room, rooftop deck and a half-acre beer garden. Another structure on the property will eventually house a distillery.
Occupying a block of Lytle Street, the main building is located within an industrial use area next to Hazelwood Green.
While there are no plans for an on-site kitchen, Kahley is forging partnerships with food trucks and local eateries. The soon-to-open Woods House Historic Pub and Community Kitchen Pittsburgh are located nearby.
Kahley gazes at the behemoth structure and smiles. An avid mountain climber, he gets a similar workout walking up and down the stairs. Constructed in 1905, the building housed Hazelwood Famous Beer, one of the city’s few independent beer makers not bought by Pittsburgh Brewing Co.
Prohibition killed the business. Aside from a few bottles, an opener and some old pictures, there’s virtually no trace of the company’s existence.
Derby Brewing Co. took over the space when the 18th Amendment was repealed — there are remnants of a painted sign on the side of the building — but the business only lasted about 18 months. After that, a hydraulic company moved in, followed by a demolition crew.
There were talks of tearing down the massive edifice, but the price was higher than the ceiling.
The Progress Fund purchased the property in 2017, thanks in part to grants from the Richard King Mellon Foundation. Overall, the project will cost about $6.5 million. Roughly $300,000 has been spent just to get the building ready for renovations. Since Kahley once served as assistant to the president and property manager of Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation, he is mindful of preserving the building’s integrity. An elevator shaft and stairwell will be added to the outside of the structure.
Once construction starts, Kahley will work on finalizing brewery leases. Interested parties include Straub Brewery, a headquartered in St. Marys, Pa., Mike Potter, owner of Black Brew Culture and co-founder of Fresh Fest and Travis Tuttle and Christian Simmons of Bonafide Beer Co., opening soon in the Strip District.
The Progress Fund has relationships with each. “I want it to be the right kind of mix, not just best offers,” Kahley says.
Simmons, who also owns Pennsylvania Libations and 1700 Penn in the Strip, and Tuttle have served as a resource for the project. The Progress Fund assisted Tuttle in getting his Butler Brew Works venture off of the ground.
“We are looking for this opportunity to give us a chance to brew larger batches than the Strip District location, work with another community, provide more jobs across Pittsburgh, all while brewing exciting beers,” Simmons says. “David has been a large supporter of the craft libations scene. I believe seven or eight distilleries in my retail store were funded by The Progress Fund. I believe they can be a lifeline for many startups with the right business plan and passion in this industry.”