Historic Coca-Cola bottling plant may gain new life as food hall | Local

Reviving the former Winston-Salem Coca-Cola bottling plant may represent the merging of two loves – food and historic buildings – for its developers.

An affiliate of Qinst Group LLC of Winston-Salem recently paid a combined $ 2.6 million to Old Salem Inc. for three tracts across from the Old Salem Visitor’s Center.

Coca-Cola bottling plant

Stucco would be removed from the South Marshall Street side of the old Coca-Cola bottling plant to provide light and access from the east side.

Walt Unks, Journal

The main tract is the 1.09-acre site at 830 S. Marshall St. with the 23,512-square-foot former Coca-Cola plant. The plant debuted in 1939 and had sections added into the 1960s.

There’s also a 1.37-acre tract across Poplar Street, identified as 0 Walnut St., that’s likely to be converted into a parking lot or other purpose, and an adjacent 0.46-acre tract at 810 S. Poplar St.

The developers are leaning toward a year-round food hall concept for the plant site, although other options remain on the table, said Jared Rogers, an operating partner of QAH.

Coca-Cola bottling plant

An interior view of a mid-20th century addition to the Coca-Cola bottling plant that allowed the public a view of the bottling process.

Walt Unks, Journal

Rogers said the group believes it can whip up an eclectic menu of food options, along with some small retail spots and potential for office space on the second floor.

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“My partners and I would like to do a food-centric, fast casual-ish development,” Rogers said.

Under preliminary estimates, the food hall would total nearly 30,000 square feet, if an existing inner parking lot is converted into an open courtyard for dining. There could be the potential for rooftop dining in one section that provides a view of downtown, UNC School of the Arts and Old Salem.

The Coca-Cola plant operated around the clock for decades on the block. Rogers said employees and the local community were treated to family functions that included carousels and merry-go-rounds.

Coca-Cola bottling plant

A space on the second floor in the south side of the former Coca-Cola bottling plant includes windows facing east, south and west. The plant debuted in 1939 and had sections added into the 1960s.

Walt Unks, Journal

“I love Old Salem and think it is a very unique location even nationwide because it represents a community artifacting and restoring their original settlement site,” Rogers said.

“Historic buildings tend to have a sense of space more so than more modern buildings.

“People want to go to places they enjoy being at, and there are fewer and fewer buildings that can provide that kind of atmosphere. This may be the last one like this in West Salem. ”

The developers’ goal is debuting in 2024 or 2025, depending mostly on how quickly QAH can gain approval of federal and state tax credits for the site.

“We’ll pursue a landmark designation, and it’s a contributing structure in the West Salem Historic District,” Rogers said.

“The expectation is getting between 30% and 35% of what we put into the project back in tax credits.”

Food Hall Vs. food court

A food hall is differentiated from a food court primarily by offering a local neighborhood food sampling concept, rather than attracting national or regional food chains.

“A food hall is a marketplace that contains local mini-restaurants, assorted food shops and vendors, and even services like a butcher shop,” according to Cubho.com.

“Everything from a food hall menu is generally prepared fresh to order as well, and they may even feature live entertainment for diners,” which Rogers said the developers are considering for the courtyard dining area.

Coca-Cola bottling plant

Jared Rogers is an operating partner for QAH Group LLC. The group is planning on developing the old Coca-Cola bottling plant on South Marshall Street for mixed use, which could include a food hall, retail and office space.

Walt Unks photos, Journal

The food hall concept is appealing, Rogers said, because it’s inviting to families – particularly those of multi-generations – because vendors are likely to have something for every appetite.

“One of the things that affects many families, mine included, is what is called‘ choice deniability ’when it comes time to go out to eat,” Rogers said.

Because it can be difficult to get everyone to agree on the same restaurant, “oftentimes families just don’t go out at all,” he said.

“At a food hall, everybody shows up, everybody likely has an option they want and then they can gather in an open seating setting and dine together.”

The food hall concept would center on the developers providing food vendors with 1,500- to 2,000-square-foot spaces, thus lowering their overhead costs compared to trying to operate in a standalone or other multi-tenant sites.

“Because the grounds were built up over several decades, it lends itself to multi-use tenants if we want to go that route,” Rogers said.

Rogers said QAH was competing with groups that were more interested in building townhomes on the vacant Walnut Street space and the adjacent tract at 810 S. Poplar St., and then figure out what to do with the plant site.

“Our vision was for the plant, with the vacant sites serving in a support role,” Rogers said.

In the weeks since the real-estate transaction closed, Rogers said “we’ve already had a good amount of interest from the limited publicity that’s been out there.”

“If we do this well, it can become a destination spot for the community.

“We really think it will move the needle for Winston-Salem,” Rogers said.

Setting the menu

The developers believe they will have the only food hall concept in Winston-Salem.

Although the food hall concept isn’t set in stone, Rogers said the group hopes to create a stomach-driven gravitational pull from downtown to the block.

The developers’ vision would be for between eight to 10 local vendors offering pickup for dining on the property or for carryout.

Rogers said those tenants could represent: restaurants from outside the area testing the local market; food truck vendors wanting a set location; chefs wanting to take the first steps out of working in community kitchens; and vendors seeking a lower-cost site to try out new concepts.

Rogers said his research of food halls does tend to lean toward younger diners, whether high school or college students, recent graduates “and up to the hipster crowd.”

“You’ll also have the West Salem and Washington Park populations, those coming from downtown who don’t mind driving for good food. It’s also about 1.5 miles off Salem Parkway for people driving through Winston-Salem. ”

Rogers envisions some vendors being successful enough to graduate into larger space elsewhere, thus freeing up space for another vendor.

Jason Thiel, president of the Downtown Winston-Salem Partnership, said he believes the food hall concept “will be a nice addition to this area.”

“I anticipate it would be a regional draw for people to visit, not just downtown workers and residents.”

Crossing the street

Having more than 440,000 visitors annually (pre-COVID-19 pandemic) to Old Salem presents an opportunity for developers to attract fairly steady rounds of customers, particularly those on school trips, Rogers said.

“Visitors go to Old Salem knowing they’re going to have to eat before or eat afterward, or they’re going to get hungry,” Rogers said.

“This is really a natural fit because it’s across the street.”

Old Salem had been considering selling the Coca-Cola plant for about five years, chief operating officer Terry Taylor said. There have been plans to offer properties outside the Historic District since 2012.

The nonprofit did not look for a buyer with a food concept development proposal, but welcomes the possibility, Taylor said.

“We will do everything we can to assist them, but we have not had any conversations about particular food vendors,” Taylor said. “We will leave it up to them to determine the best food fit.

“We have high hopes that a food hall would do well there, not only for serving our visitors, but the community as a whole.”

Cindy Christopher, whose Christopher Commercial Properties marketed the Coca-Cola plant site, said Old Salem has put up for sale the nearby former Stockburger Farmhouse property that sits on 0.26 acres. It is eligible for historic preservation tax credits.

In the flier for the Coca-Cola plant, Christopher said the Old Salem board chose to sell the properties as part of a strategy “that is in line with Old Salem’s continued efforts of the 10-plus year to stabilize and focus Old Salem to ensure its long-term viability. ”

Christopher wrote that “additional properties will be assessed at a future date. The board will carefully analyze and evaluate these properties prior to sale. ”

“None of these properties are interpreted sites, and none are public facing.”

Historic tax credits

With Old Salem remaining on site through the end of the year, the developers are taking their first renovation steps, which involves applying for federal and state historic tax credits, along with preliminary design work.

Rogers said the group “will not be able to start any significant work until the historic (tax credits) application is submitted.”

He said the goal would be to begin that process this week, which starts with “having to take thousands of pictures of every possible angle of the building space.”

“That also starts the clock on the application process. Once we start that process, then we can start fixing the roof and the deferred maintenance. We can do that in conjunction with Old Salem occupying the space. ”

“We’ll proceed at that time of meeting all the business codes we’ll need for the tenants,” Rogers said.

Other West Salem projects

Christopher has fliers citing other potential or pending projects for the West Salem neighborhood.

Those include Walnut + Broad, which is being developed by Claire Calvin, who owns The Porch kitchen and cantina and Alma Mexicana.

Her next project is a restaurant called East of Texas with a wholesale kitchen.

The proposed site map for the overall property at 905 and 907 Broad St. lists a bakery, bar, covered outdoor patio and a fitness center.

Christopher’s flier lists about 1,000 square feet of retail space available for pre-leasing.

There’s also Lesser-Known Beer Co., which is projected to open by late June in a 3,000-square-foot indoor space, an old service-station building at 901 S. Broad St.

Will Loring, co-founder of the brewery, said about 800 square feet will be dedicated to a tasting room area, along with an additional 2,500 square feet in a covered outdoor space.

Co-founder Ryan Gramlich has been a brewer in Virginia, while Loring has worked in craft-beer wholesale distribution. The two friends had met in college, then reconnected years later over a love of beer.

The brewery will have a custom three-vessel brewhouse to enable decoction, a traditional brewing technique in Germany and the Czech Republic.

“Our primary focus for beers will be on lower ABV Czech and German style lagers with an American pale ale as well,” Loring said.

There will be 1 / 2- and 1/3-liter beers served in traditional glassware right off the tanks “to give the experience of drinking as a brewer would,” Loring said.

“Once we have that down, we also plan to operate a small hot dog cart in conjunction with food trucks / pop-ups to meet demand.”

Loring said his group was not aware of other commercial plans when they came upon their space.

“We just really liked the character of the building and the area as it was, and that we didn’t have to mess with zoning,” Loring said.

“But we are certainly very excited for the other plans for the area as well, and look forward to more options to this wonderful neighborhood.”


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