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Preservationists Mobilize To Save Historic Elston Avenue Brewery

Brand Brewery

Preservationists are fighting to save the Brand Brewery, 2530 N. Elston Ave. (Credit: Forgotten Chicago)

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CHICAGO (CBS) — Preservationists are trying to save a historic brewery complex on Elston Avenue from being torn down to make way for a big-box store parking lot.

Our Urban Times reported in late October that Brand Brewery complex, located at Elston Avenue and Leavitt Street, is likely to be torn down to make way for a new HHgregg electronics and appliance store and its parking lot.

The stretch of Elston Avenue between Logan Boulevard and Damen and Fullerton avenues is a well known as a corridor of big-box stores, including Target, Home Depot, Staples and TigerDirect, among others.

Indianapolis-based HHGregg expanded into the Chicago area market in September, with 14 new stores in the suburbs. Our Urban Times says developers are hoping to bring the electronics retailer to the Elston Avenue corridor, on the very site where the Brand Brewery now stands.

The Brand Brewing company began operation in 1899, and was out of business by 1935, Forgotten Chicago reported. In the more than 75 years since, the brewery complex at 2530 N. Elston Ave. has been used as a cold storage company, hardware warehouse, and rubber factory, according to Forgotten Chicago.

WBEZ architecture blogger Lee Bey wrote in September that the brewery once produced 250,000 barrels of beer per year, and its founder, German-born industrialist Virgil Michael Brand, also happened to be the owner of what was likely the world’s largest coin collection.

The 45,000 square-foot brewery complex was listed for sale earlier this year for $5.85 million. The ReMax listing described the Brand buildings as “prime for dining, microbrew/entertainment complex” and “dusty but solid.” It includes capped underground artesian wells, the listing says.

But the buyer, Key Development Partners LLC, wants to demolish the brewery instead. The demolition was placed on hold on Aug. 31 and is “under review” by the city Department of Housing and Economic Development, records say.

Late last month, Our Urban Times argued that the Brand complex could be reused for any number of purposes, including a new brewery, or a restaurant, bar or retail or office building. The online publication also points out that historic breweries are important to Chicago history, and there are eight big-box retailers nearby that already sell similar merchandise to the proposed HHGregg.

In an effort to preserve the complex, Forgotten Chicago, along with Preservation Chicago, Logan Square Preservation and the Northwest Chicago Historical Society, is holding a discussion next week on the brewery and the efforts to save it.

The discussion will be held from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 21, at Revolution Brewing, at 2323 N. Milwaukee Ave. in the Logan Square neighborhood. The event costs $20 in advance and $25 at the door.