‘Concurrent’ project just starting as brewery noise hassles residents
Bryan Simpson, head of public relations at New Belgium’s headquarters in Fort Collins, Colorado, told the Tribune that ground was broken at the shipping depot’s site, on grounds of the old American Enka plant, “about two weeks ago.” The company’s brewing operation broke ground with great fanfare at its Craven Street location on May 1.
Construction at the brewery site is proceeding, though it appears to be running behind schedule – a fact which is causing considerable consternation to nearby residents who say they are already frazzled by a high and relentless volume of noise (see below).
According to a news release issued in January, the proposed 100,000 square-foot distribution facility will account for about 30 of the total 140 jobs New Belgium has said it expects to bring into the county. The Enka site has room for an additional 40,000 square feet of storage space if and when expansion is necessary. “New Belgium beer will be brewed in Asheville and distributed up and down the East coast from our distribution center in Buncombe County,” Jay Richardson, General Manager of New Belgium’s Asheville operations, said at the time. “We’re proud to bring these jobs to Western North Carolina and our beer to the East coast.”
“We invited several firms to submit design-build proposals on the DC, with more than half based in or having permanent offices in NC. The submission process is complete and the DC contract will be awarded by early March,” the news release said, adding that the plant “will be built concurrently with the brewery and liquid center on Craven Street in West Asheville, and be ready for occupancy by fall 2015.
Concerns were raised almost immediately about the center’s location, just above the Jacob Holm manufacturing company. The site backs up to an unlined gravel pit which, observers say, has been used as a dump for toxic materials. (The same concern was raised when plans were unveiled for a new school to be located in the same vicinity.)
On June 12 a post on the Facebook page “New Belgium Watch” stated, “Just went by the distribution center site. It’s a critical piece in supporting the factory operations. Nothing has been done. Supposedly, hiring for the DC will begin in early 2015.” Later the writer said, “[…the] distribution center isn’t under construction, and the property is not owned by New Belgium.”
However, Buncombe County tax records show that New Belgium purchased 13.2 acres of land in Lower Hominy Township (which includes the Enka site) from Fletcher Partners, Inc., for $1,376,200. The deed was recorded on May 9, more than a week after groundbreaking ceremonies for the brewery site had been held. Last Friday, a worker at the brewery site told a Tribune reporter who had stopped by to take photographs that plans for the Enka facility were “off.”
“They’re not going to do that,” said the foreman, who would identify himself only as “Jerry.”
“I’m not sure where he got that,” Simpson told the Tribune, “but I can assure you we are up and moving in Enka. I’m looking at pictures of [the depot site] right now.”
“New Belgium Watch” members weren’t buying it. One said Simpson’s assessment of the site progress translated to “We mowed the grass.”
Another said,” [Simpson] also said we’d see buildings going up “immediately” after the May 1st ground-breaking. I know the word “immediately” is relative, but the site work is still quite far from done. Mr. Simpson also said the Craven Street improvements would be done during their 8 month construction delay, and that city crews would be able to get that work done more efficiently without having to deal with the site construction in progress. Well, 13 months later and Craven Street hasn’t even been started.”
And meanwhile, back on Craven Street …
What has started at the Craven Street brewery site is pile driving, which beings at 7:15 a.m. weekdays and 8:15 on Saturdays. The piles (actually steel “H” girders) are being driven bedrock-deep into the ground at the plant site in order to stabilize the soil. No building can begin until this is accomplished, and the reason it is necessary is that New Belgium ‘s east coast brewing operation is being constructed on a flood plain.
Thus the bang-pause-bang noise – strong enough to cause ground vibrations several hundred feet away – has become an unwelcome and even stressful part of daily life for those who reside in the 80-year-old neighborhood across the river.
New Belgium is quick to point out that it gave the neighbors fair warning there would be noise, and in fact a notice to that effect is posted on its corporate update page. Still, residents say, that’s little comfort, especially considering that the timetable for having to endure the racket seems to be constantly changing.
On May 23, an update on New Belgium’s website said the deep foundation pile driving had begun on May 20 and would continue “until the end of June” – which, neighbors say, was bad enough – but a further note said pile driving for the liquid center, a separate building, will begin “in early July” and is expected to last about two weeks.
“So,” one resident wrote, “ now we have to wonder how much pile driving and how long it will last PER building/structure? Hey, New Belgium, enough with the semantics. If you know pile driving is going to be from May 20th until July? August? September? then just say so. No more lying by omission and half truths.”
New Belgium received an incentive package of approximately $8.5 million to bring its operation to Asheville. The incentives are to be paid over a 13-year period, or at the rate of about $654,000 per year.
One former county employee and long-time observer said, “Okay. We’re giving them eight and a half million to come build one facility on a flood plain and another near a toxic waste dump.
“Who hoodooed who?”