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City OK's grants for biz work

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By Jon Hawley
Staff Writer

Sunday, November 5, 2017

The Elizabeth City City Council approved more than $31,000 in “Business Improvement Grants” on Monday, moving forward a waterfront microbrewery and restoration of the former “Thumper’s” building.

The council approved $20,000 to the tentatively named “Elizabeth City Brewing Company” for rehabilitation of the three-story Hurdle Hardware building at 112 N. Water St. The company, otherwise known as “HCWGMW2 LLC”, purchased the property in early September for $475,000, according to Pasquotank County tax officials. It’s owned in part by Dean Schaan and former Pasquotank County commissioner Matt Wood.

The city’s grant, though significant, will be a small portion of a potentially $1.5 million project, according to an estimate Elizabeth City Downtown Inc. Executive Director Deborah Malenfant shared earlier this year. In his grant application, Schaan reported the city’s $20,000 will contribute to more than $500,000 worth of facade and other external repairs. That work is only the first phase of the project that envisions creating a microbrewery plus event space, an outdoor beer garden and community gathering area.

According to the grant application, exterior work will include window, door and lighting improvements, repainting bricks, installing a “retractable storefront” and demolishing a small single-story structure to create a dumpster enclosure.

The grant application also states the company will create six full-time and 10 part-time employees.

Though Schaan and Wood couldn’t be reached for comment Friday, Malenfant said she’s been told they plan to open the business before 2019. She also noted ECDI and the city continue working on a Main Street Solutions Fund grant application that could land a $150,000 grant for the project.

Schaan previously secured a city grant for the Fowler building, also on Water Street, where it intended to locate a microbrewery. The company completed exterior work there, but decided to move its microbrewery across the street, buying the Hurdle Hardware building from the owners of the long stalled-out “Harbor Lights” project. City officials have previously said Schaan is looking to use the Fowler building space for retail and residential purposes.

The city council also approved an $11,132 grant to cover about a third of the $32,264 renovation of the former Thumper’s Bar and Grill, located at 200 N. Poindexter St., and 601 E. Colonial Ave., owned by George Jackson. Malenfant said the building needs extensive repairs if it’s to attract a tenant, and currently presents a “perception of decline” in the downtown.

Among other improvements, the project would include: repainting the building’s trim, repairing windows, replacing exterior lights, replacing an ornamental facade and two awnings, deep interior cleaning, repairing ceiling tiles, updating bathroom fixtures and “miscellaneous electrical repairs throughout.”

Briefly updating the council on his property, Jackson said he had been negotiating with a restaurant in Portsmouth to expand its operations into the Thumper’s building, but that didn’t work out. He said the problems are the costs of restoring the building, plus a lack of parking. He also said he’s talking with other potential tenants about the building, but it remains in “bad repair.”

Responding to a councilor’s question, Jackson said he’s still focused on attracting a restaurant there. 

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