Downtown Development Authority Director Michael Burns let out a long sigh of relief Wednesday.
After months of planning, interviewing and negotiating, the Fenton DDA approved a lease with Michigan Brewing Company. The group will turn the old fire hall, 201 South Leroy St., into a restaurant and brewery.
"It's been a long time coming," Burns said. "We are happy to finally be moving forward. We have a lot of good things starting to happen downtown, and this is the biggest."
The Webberville-based company plans to turn the fire hall into its signature location, said investor Ken Adams. The site will contain a small brewery but will function more as a restaurant. DDA Chairman Craig Schmidt said the company plans to hire a chef from the Food Network.
The menu will feature sandwiches, burgers, pizza and other items, Adams said. He added the restaurant will also likely have a barrel of peanuts available to munch on, which is a staple in the company's Webberville Pub at the Brewery and its downtown Lansing location, which opened in 2009.
Not to say that beer lovers won't get their fill. There likely will be at least 16 taps serving Michigan Brewing's ales and lagers.
"I think Fenton is going to be a great place for business," Adams said. "I think it's going to be a good thing for the company."
Adams said plans include keeping the exterior of the building intact while making a few adjustments to windows and doors. He said there are also plans for outdoor seating in the back of the building. "Fenton fire hall" could somehow be included in the name of the facility, he said, but no plans have been finalized.
Michigan Brewing hopes to open its doors to the public on April 1, 2012.
The lease now goes to Michigan Brewing Company officials to be signed.
"It's a really good project, and we think they are going to be a great neighbor," Schmidt said.
Not everyone was so sure, however, as Fenton resident Jim Little voiced many concerns.
"It just makes me nervous," he said. "There's kids that fish by the gazebo, mom's that push their babies in strollers. Kids and alcohol don't mix."
The deal is for Michigan Brewing to lease the building for $1 a year for seven years and then buy it for $1. Burns said the lease is to protect the city in case the establishment goes out of business. The group will also receive up to $400,000 from the DDA toward the estimated $1.35 million in renovations required to bring the building up to standards. The DDA plans to provide half the money at the beginning of the project and the other half at the end.
The agreement gives the DDA the right to terminate the lease at any time for any violations and provides Michigan Brewing the option to expand the lease for longer than seven years. Michigan Brewing will pay property taxes as if it owned the building.
Last fall, the DDA chose Michigan Brewing to move into the location, which it called a key spot to unite Dibbleville and the north section of Leroy Street.
Plans for the location include a small brewing system and an open kitchen. Michigan Brewing plans to serve beer, wine and whiskey made on-site, along with other alcohol beverages brewed in Webberville.
Burns said the facility is expected to bring 50 to 75 jobs to the area as well.
"This is going to be a big piece in revitalizing downtown," Burns said.