Four business owners applied to renovate the old Fenton fire hall and all four will be interviewed next week.
Members of a Fenton Downtown Development Authority Committee were impressed with the proposals and agreed to interview the owners of the Arbor Brewing Company and Corner Brewery in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti; the Clarkston Union and the Union Woodshop in Clarkston; Lockhart's BBQ, Royal Oak Brewery and Detroit Beer Company; and Tavern 131 in Milford and Ciao Amici in Brighton.
"This is a catalyst towards revitalizing dowtown," Burns said. "We need someone that is going to be in front of that and take pride in that. I think we need some that is going to be a part of what we are trying to do downtown."
The selection committee consists of DDA director Michael Burns, DDA Chairman Craig Schmidt, City Manager Lynn Markland, DDA Vice Chairman Jim Saule and DDA member Doug James, the same group that previously selected Michigan Brewing Company.
Interviews will be conducted at 11 a.m. Tuesday. After, a financial analysis of the final candidates will be conducted that may take up to 30 days to complete. A recommendation from the committee will then be made to the full DDA Board for approval.
The interviews will allow applicants to make a 20-25 minute presentation and then the DDA group will ask questions. All business owners have already toured the old fire hall, which has sat empty for nine years.
The Arbor Brewing Company owner's proposal calls for a location that will be a cross between its main location in Ann Arbor and its Corner Brewery branch in Ypsilanti. Tavern 131 owner's proposal resembled its Milford restaurant, while the owners of the Clarkston Union have proposed a BBQ fire hall-based restaurant. All three proposals had letters from their banks stating they had access to a $1 million loan.
The owners of Lockhart's BBQ, Royal Oak Brewery and Detroit Beer Company proposal calls for another Lockhart BBQ and not a brewery. Their plans are not to use the lower level of the building. They had funding approval for $750,000.
The proposals all planned for completion of the renovation within one year.
"We want to create a destination," James said.
The DDA and the Michigan Brewing Company terminated its lease of the Old Fenton Fire Hall on April 26. The deal was for Michigan Brewing Company to lease the building for $1 a year for seven years and then buy it for $1. MBC would have received up to $400,000 from the DDA toward the estimated $1.35 million in renovations required to bring the building up to standards. It has not been determined if the same assistance will be available for the new tenant.
Burns said he received calls within an hour after the DDA announced the deal was off.
"This could have been a disaster with what happened with Michigan Brewing Company," Schmidt said. "We have four good proposals and I think we can get what everyone wants in a restaurant/brewpub destination."
Burns said he doesn't believe the DDA made any mistakes in the previous process. He said all the problems can after the fact.
"We did our due diligence and selected the right candidate at that time," Burns said. "At the same time, we want people who can handle the project we don’t want to be in that situation again."
City officials also said they have been talking with the adjacent Fenton United Methodist Church officials and do not expect any objections. The church intially filed a objection to the Michigan Brewing Company and then withdrew the complaint.