As published in Feast Magazine, August 30th, 2013
by Brandi Wills
For many restaurant owners, being a good steward of the environment also means making a long-term commitment to their businesses and the neighborhoods where they reside. Such is the case for Urban Brewing Co.’s co-founders, David Wolfe and Florian Kuplent. Just two years into their brewing business, Urban Chestnut is expanding operations to a second location in The Grove. The 70,000 square foot production brewery, packaging facility, warehouse and indoor/outdoor retail tasting room will be located in the former Renard Paper Co. building, quadrupling the company’s brewing capacity while simultaneously making it the largest craft brewing facility in the area. Projected to open in early 2014, Urban Chestnut has partnered with Green Street St. Louis – a local real estate firm recognized for the sustainable redevelopment of underutilized St. Louis-area commercial properties into LEED- (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified buildings. Green Street owns the building and is developing the project with Urban Chestnut.
“Because this project is a reuse of an existing space and not a new build, we’re working toward the Commercial Interiors LEED certification status,” Wolfe says. “This means green interior finishes, reducing water and energy use, recycling our construction materials, using local materials and artisans for our furniture, and more. These steps are what will make us a good citizen within our neighborhood. But we could do all these things without seeking third-party recognition [from LEED]. We’re becoming certified as a longevity measure. If we invest in geothermal energy and other efficient systems for this building, then they will be in place for future owners. The more people who [make sustainable design decisions] now, the easier it will be for future owners to do, too.”
Green Street St. Louis managing principal Phil Hulse says the company is working with local architects and contractors to design and build the new facility to incorporate high-efficiency lighting and mechanical systems, conservation of water, solar power and using natural and locally produced resources and recycled materials to lessen the building’s long-term impact.
“There are many benefits to incorporating [sustainable] principles into the building,” Hulse says. “One of the most important is that you create a better environment for people to work in and you have less negative impact on the surrounding environment (by minimizing our carbon footprint). Our focus has been to redevelop existing buildings and repurpose them for new uses – this is one of the best ways to incorporate sustainable design into the building.”
Rob Maltby, project manager with Green Street, clearly sees the investment Wolfe and Kuplent are making in their new neighborhood. “This project is reusing a building in a neighborhood that is really unique, diverse and growing,” Maltby says. “This project has the ability to connect with the community around [it], as well as filling a large hole in The Grove. Other projects we have done, while LEED certified, are more functional for the business. I think this project can showcase a green building in a 24/7 neighborhood, and how a lot of the elements of sustainability don’t just come from the building itself, but the impact it has on the surrounding community.”
For Wolfe and Kuplent, creating this kind of project in The Grove just makes sense.
“The Grove is a sustainable neighborhood,” Wolfe says. “It’s close to transit, in a dense community, and is walkable. Reusing the building eliminates massive amounts of building materials and habitat destruction, and it adds to the economic, environmental and social sustainability of the area. We’ll be creating jobs, reducing our carbon footprint and helping the neighborhood – all of these promote a holistic view of sustainability versus solely focusing on environmental factors.”
For Wolfe, that all-encompassing approach to sustainability is what gives this entire project a sense of purpose. “There are a lot of benefits to employing sustainable practices,” he says. “From a marketing stand-point, we’re appealing to people who care about the environment and aligning ourselves with their morals. And we’re investing in long-term cost-savings for our business with the many energy-saving measures we’re taking. But, honestly, the most important element is the cultural impact we’re making. People who work here, who see what we’re doing and how we’re doing it are going to follow suit. They’re going to start living it themselves and become better citizens. And as customers come to expect sustainability to be part of their restaurants, they’ll demand it more and more. It’s like they say, ‘The beach starts with one grain of sand.’ And we really do feel good about what we’re doing on a regular basis.”