The popularity of craft beer is helping urban neighborhoods throughout the country that had been written off, including some in the shadow of beer giant Anheuser-Busch in St. Louis. Those who are heavily-involved in the city's beer scene hold up Urban Chestnut's foray into The Grove and Schlafly's opening in Maplewood as prime examples of how a brewery can become a key element of a community and lead to a revival.
There appears to be a new contender to help continue a neighborhood turnaround. Charleville Brewing Co. & Tavern recently opened on the edge of the Lafayette Square neighborhood and partner Paul Hamilton hopes it will have a key role in attracting people to a proposed residential development across the street on Chouteau Avenue.
"That's the perfect example of maybe how this brewery is going to revitalize what's left of the Lafayette Square neighborhood," he told St. Louis Public Radio.
"Lafayette Square itself obviously is a strong neighborhood. It's been here a long time. But it's that edge and surrounding areas that really need to be filled in."
The decision to locate on Chouteau, near other Hamilton-run businesses, was made by Charleville's director of operations, Tait Russell. He looked a spots in other areas including The Grove, which is considered an up-can-coming neighborhood of St. Louis, but was upbeat about the potential along Chouteau.
"Proximity to downtown and Lafayette Square and knowing how the neighborhood in general is blowing up right now."
Other cities have cashed-in on beer-related urban renewal. In Denver, the River North neighborhood, known as RiNO, has gone from an industrial district to a desirable area to work, shop and live. Breweries were some of the first businesses to locate there and the rest of the development followed.
Kyle Wilson is a St. Louis-based architect who works for a firm that has designed brewing operations throughout the U.S. He says along with Denver's River North, The Gulch neighborhood in Nashville is another success story helped by a thriving beer scene. One of the developments in the area even promotes the brewery connection on its website.
"The very first paragraph talks about their proximity to a brewery," Wilson said.
"Here is a development coming on the market, trying to compete for renters in a hot market and their target is come live within a couple steps of an established brewery in Nashville."
And some sections of St. Louis could be poised for a similar success story.
Wilson regards Manchester Road as an area ripe for more beer-related urban renewal, especially from The Grove, which has already shown signs of success, to Maplewood. He even thinks the concept can work as people keep driving west.
"Des Peres and Manchester and Ballwin and Ellisville and even Wildwood," he said.
"I think that there is some industrial real estate that is available and I think you just go to find the right person with the right vision who is getting going to move out there."
The discussion about neighborhood breweries helping to bring back some sections of St. Louis is not new. The Urban Land Institute held a discussion about it earlier this year that was led by St. Louis Brewers Guild Executive Director Troika Brodsky.
"We have understood that concept of the rising tide floats all boats," he recently told St. Louis Public Radio.
"And I think that extends well beyond the brewing industry of St. Louis and it applies to the entire city and the growth and the success of this city. Anything positive that is happening here is good for all of us."
If you speak with many connected to the St. Louis-area beer scene they will tell you it is thriving.
There are roughly 50 breweries crafting their concoctions throughout the region and more are likely. That's a huge difference from the 1980's when there was only a couple, including behemoth Anheuser-Busch. The Urban Land Institute says the sector started to grow after AB was sold to InBev in the late 2000s. Many who had worked for the maker of Budweiser branched out on their own.
Now in addition to telling the St. Louis story, which is heavily connected to beer, there is talk about creating at least one beer trail in the city and a potential museum on the region’s beer history.
The goal seems to be clear. Maintain a thriving craft brewing scene, while helping to revitalize areas of the city some might have written off while trying to attract some beer-related tourists who can pump money into the overall economy.
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