Chicago Tribune: Planned Valparaiso distillery receives $5M tax credits from state development agency

By Amy Lavalley // Chicago Tribune:

Plans for Journeyman Distillery to turn the former Anco property in Valparaiso into a second location got a boost Wednesday when the Indiana Economic Development Corp., led by Gov. Eric Holcomb and meeting at Urschel Laboratories in Chesterton, voted unanimously to grant the project $5 million in tax credits.

The Indiana Recovery Tax Credit program, also known as “Dino” because it’s used for “dinosaurs,” large, vacant and older industrial buildings, will provide the project 25 cents in tax credits for every $1 spent on redevelopment, said Stu Summers, executive director of the Valparaiso Redevelopment Commission, who attended the meeting.

The tax credit, according to Summers and Bill Welter, a Valparaiso native who is the founder of Journeyman Distillery and also attended the meeting, will allow the project to move forward.

“It’s a big project,” Welter, who lives in Three Oaks, Mich., site of the current distillery, said after the meeting. “I think the tax credits discussed today are almost a necessity to make a project like this viable.”

Journeyman, which is committing $22 million to the project, wanted to make sure the tax credits were in place before signing off on a development agreement with the RDC and the city of Valparaiso, and before the property was transferred to Journeyman from the RDC, Summers said.

The plans, announced in May 2018, also include what’s expected to be an additional $78 million investment in an array of housing and other amenities at the site of the ChicaGo Dash commuter bus line to downtown Chicago, at the intersection of South Campbell and Brown streets. The property is being redeveloped into a transit-oriented development.

Journeyman Distillery’s plans for the Anco building, which formerly housed a windshield wiper factory, include a distillery, tasting room and restaurant, as well as a retail area. The second floor will include banquet halls and other amenities.

The site’s iconic water tower also will be restored and painted with the Journeyman logo.

The RDC purchased the former Anco building out of receivership in April 2017 for $175,000. The commission paid $1.2 million, much of it reimbursed through a grant from the Regional Development Authority, for cleanup, including asbestos and mercury removal, according to officials. The property includes seven buildings that total 130,000 square feet, though two of those buildings will be torn down. The commission also acquired seven homes on property on Brown Street that have since been torn down.

Anco moved out of the complex in the 1960s.

Welter doesn’t have a timeline for the distillery yet, and said much of that would depend on working with the developer, Flaherty and Collins, to finalize plans and bid out the work.

“Hopefully we can start getting some signs up to promote the idea that we’re going to be there,” he said.

Other work in the area is moving forward, Summers said. A 300-car parking lot north of Anco for the ChicaGo Dash should be complete before winter, and work will begin after the Fourth of July to rebuild Lafayette Street south from Indiana Street to Brown Street, including curbs and gutters.

He expects work on the Anco property to begin in around a year.

Because of the project’s magnitude, Welter said it’s taken some time for the details to move forward.

“We’re finally there,” he said.