WATERLOO — Two different brewers and a combination bicycle and clothing store are all making pitches to occupy the city’s vacant RiverLoop Public Market Building.
The city has received three proposals from ventures interested in leasing the building at 327 W. Third St., which has remained empty since the original tenant, a grocery and restaurant cooperative, failed in September 2016.
The building, renovated as part of the city’s Riverfront Renaissance project using a state grant, is in a key downtown location, visible from U.S. Highway 218 and located on the RiverLoop Expo Plaza near the amphitheater, convention center and Cedar Valley SportsPlex.
WATERLOO — The city is seeking a tenant for its downtown RiverLoop Public Market Building.
Proposals were received from Lark Brewing Co., which would invest more than $500,000 into opening a beer brewery, tasting room and barbecue restaurant; Verve Kombucha, also investing more than $500,000 into a kombucha brewery and bistro; and Waterloo Bicycle Works, which would move into the space, add a deli and share the building with Raygun, a Des Moines-based clothing and home goods retailer.
“They all look like very good proposals … and they all bring something unique to downtown,” said Community Planning and Development Director Noel Anderson. “It’s going to be a tough choice.”
City staff were planning to meet with the Waterloo Development Corp., a nonprofit organization assisting with downtown redevelopment, before holding a work session to discuss the options with the City Council, which ultimately would approve any lease for the building.
Lark Brewing, a partnership between Barmuda Corp.’s Darin Beck and Sean Christensen, is currently operating in the lower level of the former Beck’s Taproom on University Avenue and had been planning to move to downtown Cedar Falls until the Public Market opportunity arose.
Lark’s proposal would relocate and expand the brewing operation while adding a full-service barbecue restaurant open seven days a week. It expects to employ 50 people.
Beck said the location just a block from SingleSpeed Brewing would benefit both businesses and downtown.
“It’s important to note that Lark was Waterloo’s first official brewery, and having both breweries located so close together is actually a draw for both and puts Waterloo on the map as a brewery destination,” Beck said in Lark’s proposal.
“Brewery tourism is at an all-time high and continues to grow every year,” he added. “Some people actually plan vacations around touring craft breweries today.”
Verve Kombucha is a partnership including SingleSpeed founder Dave Morgan, developer Brent Dahlstrom and Sidecar Coffee owner Andy Fuchtman.
Their plan involves opening Iowa’s second kombucha brewery along with a bistro, which would be open Tuesday through Saturday. Kombucha is a low-alcohol fermented tea which is growing in popularity and marketed as having health benefits from being rich in probiotics.
“Our product is health-focused, perfect for neighbors of the SportsPlex, a bike shop, a yoga studio, etc.,” Verve said in its proposal. “A bistro in our area will lend itself well to future use of the Expo grounds for events, weddings and festivals.”
The business is expected to employ four full-time and 16 part-time staff and, following renovations, would be expected to open for business in April 2019.
Waterloo Bicycle Works, currently located across Third Street in the Kistner Building, has proposed moving its bike repair, maintenance and sales operation into the expanded space, adding a cafe or deli and using the space for a variety of public events.
“The bicycle industry is trending toward what some are calling the ‘Bike Shop Plus,’ an open shared space that a bicycle shop and at least one other business — usually cafe, beer hall, etc — occupy,” owner Greg Young said in his proposal.
Young also has a commitment from Raygun, a retailer largely know for its unique array of t-shirt slogans, to sublease a portion of the building. Raygun has stores in Des Moines, Iowa City, Cedar Rapids and Kansas City.
Waterloo Bicycle Works would create four full-time and two part-time jobs in the bike shop and cafe. The business would also use the kitchen to make soaps and body products for sale on site and elsewhere.
Lark was seeking a five-year lease with an option for a second five years and a chance to buy the building after 10 years. It offered lease rates starting at $3,500 per month and growing to $5,500 per month.
Verve was proposing a five- to seven-year lease of the building with rents ranging from $2,000 to $4,000 per month.
Waterloo Bicycle Works was asking for free rent for the first year with annual reviews in future years and a first right of refusal should the city put the building up for sale.
All three proposals are seeking property tax rebates on the value they add to the property. Lark and Verve are also seeking a $50,000 city grant for signage and building improvements.