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Prosit! Iskalo buys 1800s brewery building in Williamsville

Iskalo Development Corp. has cracked open a deal to buy a Williamsville building that brewed beer through much of the 1800s and is now used as a warehouse.

Village officials had crafted plans to revive the structure as a microbrewery, food co-op and artists' workshop. But the community didn't win the $10 million state grant needed to pay for the project.

Instead, Iskalo this week purchased the former brewery at 34 W. Spring St., along with several neighboring properties. The developer said it doesn't have immediate plans for the brewery building.

“We have been aware of Williamsville’s proud brewing history at this location in the village for some time,” Paul B. Iskalo, the company's president and CEO, said in a statement. “This was a rare opportunity to acquire a building of significance, together with a rather large assemblage of contiguous parcels in the village that we could not pass up.”

The former brewery, located one block north of Main Street and just to the east of the Williamsville Cemetery, is about 18,000 square feet and sits on two-thirds of an acre in an area settled by German immigrants.

The brewery opened in 1845 and changed hands several times before beer-making ceased around 1900. It was bought in 1992 by Williamsville-based International Chimney Corp., which used the building to store industrial equipment such as bricks, steel cables and scaffolding.

Three arched stone caves, or vaults, on the ground floor boast 4-foot-thick walls that kept ice cold underground before refrigeration.

Williamsville seeks $10 million to transform 1850s brewery - into a brewery

Then-Williamsville Mayor Brian J. Kulpa last year unveiled an ambitious plan to buy and redevelop the warehouse and two neighboring parcels into a retail and artistic hub in the village. The village applied for a grant through the state’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative that also would have paid for improvements to surrounding streets.

ICC and owner Rick Lohr had offered the village an exclusive purchase option, extended to last November, but Williamsville didn't win the grant.

With the village's plans tapped out, Iskalo stepped in.

"Iskalo Development has been a great steward of historical buidlings they own across the region and in the village," Williamsville Mayor Dan DeLano said in an email. "We're excited about the potential with this project. We have full faith in Iskalo Development and we look forward to working with them on this project."

The developer has bought properties up and down Main Street for years, including its headquarters building, and Iskalo has talked to Lohr on and off about the former brewery building.

"This has always been our backyard, commercially speaking," David Chiazza, Iskalo's executive vice president, said in an interview. "We'd like to think we know it as well as anybody, and we consider ourselves stewards here."

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The company this week closed on its $700,000 purchase of the brewery building at 34 W. Spring St., a neighboring strip of land at 42 W. Spring St. and a home at 115 Glen Ave. that has a tenant who will remain there.

Iskalo also purchased a home at 109 Glen Ave. from a different owner, and the company looks to rent out that house. And the company expects in January to close on a purchase of 26 W. Spring St., an office building that is and will remain the home of the engineering firm Scipar, Chiazza said.

Chiazza said ICC and Lohr made extensive investments in the property over the years, and he said he was even more impressed by the state of the building when he walked through it Wednesday after all of the equipment had been removed.

Iskalo and Chiazza said they haven't settled on a reuse plan for the property, but they expect it will engage the public.

"All the ideas the village had are on the table for us, as well," Chiazza said.

Note: Rick Lohr is the owner of International Chimney Corporation. This article has been updated with the correct spelling of his last name.


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