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Winery group plans to rebuild old Joliet brewery

Published: Thursday, March 16, 2017 10:49 p.m. CDT
Caption
(Bob Okon – bokon@shawmedia.com)
New owners of the old Diocese of Joliet property plan to use the former tribunal building shown here for a winery.

JOLIET – Developers of a future winery plan to rebuild a long-gone brewery building on the site.

The building was torn down in 1910, but one of its walls still lines Bridge Street.

The Joliet Zoning Board of Appeals approved a variance on Thursday allowing a zero setback for the building, which would be rebuilt in the same proximity to Bridge Street as the old brewery.

Phil Soto with Sehring Property Holdings said the plan is to replicate the old brewery building as much as possible.

“The wall was part of the old brewery,” Soto said. “You can see (on the wall) where there was a door in the wall and a window.”

Sehring Property Holdings, named after the Fred. Sehring Brewing Co. that occupied the site before it became the seat of the Diocese of Joliet, last year acquired the three buildings from the diocese. The diocese moved its offices to Crest Hill in late 2013.

The new owners have uncovered the foundation of the old brewery since cleaning up the site and also have found a large amount of old limestone, which apparently was simply covered up when the brewery was demolished.

“We have a lot of limestone,” Soto said. “We didn’t realize that they buried a two-story building in the hill.”

The group plans to use the limestone in reconstruction of the brewery building, which will be used for wine processing.

The 19th Century limestone house on the site, known as “The Castle” because of its limestone walls and turrets, will be used for events and wine sales.

The group also plans to distill whiskey at the site.

Other plans include growing grapes on site, which Soto said he has learned was done by the Sehring company. He said the brewer also made wine.

Soto told the zoning board that business operations would be on evenings and weekends. Events could be as large as 80 to 100 people.

Two residents spoke in favor of the plans.

“We think it’s a good use for the building,” John Sheridan, president of the Cunningham Neighborhood Council, told the zoning board. “We’re looking for thriving businesses on the near West Side.”

The winery property is in the St. John’s neighborhood, and that association has expressed support for the project as well.

Neighbor Mary Ann Barcus told the zoning board she is “quite in favor” of the project.

Barcus said the property owners talk with neighbors about their plans.

“They’re very conscious of the neighbors and the neighbors’ opinions of what’s going on,” Barcus said.

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