Before a barrel of beer can be brewed, before the first visitors step inside, the Borreo Building’s transformation into Napa’s next gastropub is beginning with details as subtle as the grout that knits its aged stone blocks together.
Despite nearly 140 years of wear and tear, 15 years of vacancy and damage from the 2014 earthquake, Stone Brewing of San Diego considered the Borreo’s bones strong enough to house a restaurant and tasting room. But first, architects, engineers and construction workers have come to the work site at Soscol Avenue and Third Street to begin restoring and shoring up the 1877 structure, a process expected to last through the end of the year.
Stone, one of the country’s most popular producers of microbrewed beer, plans to open its taproom and eatery in the first quarter of 2017.
Workers shrouded the 9,600-square-foot building with steel-and-web scaffolding early last week, then started the first phase of renovation, said the project manager, George Nielson of G.D. Nielson Construction Inc. Early tasks include seismic strengthening and exterior work such as the cleaning, painting and sealing of the stone finish.
The second stage will include installation of utilities, replacement of existing windows and doors, and the cutting of additional west-facing doors overlooking the Napa River and a new patio along the water, according to architect Sarah Marshall of Napa Design Partners. Afterward, workers will use the third phase to install the brewery, commercial kitchen and a tasting bar, Marshall said Wednesday.
First-stage repairs should cost about $340,000, according to Nielson, who had no immediate cost estimates for the remainder of the project.
Although the Napa quake dislodged some stone blocks and required the re-grouting of others, steel reinforcement beams the city added in the 2000s appear to have helped the Borreo endure relatively unscathed, the architect said during a brief tour of the building.
Unlike other downtown venues such as the former Merrill’s drug store building – which will keep only its terracotta façade in its transformation into the Archer hotel – the Borreo will emerge from its revival substantially close to its historic form with the exception of the west-facing patio, according to Marshall.
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“The great thing is, we heard that Stone likes to keep it industrial and simple – with simple materials and letting the historic parts of the building shine through,” she said of the renovation.
According to Marshall, bringing the Borreo back to its older form will include details like reproducing the original windows – strengthened by steel lintels – and reshaping outer archways that had been widened to let vehicles enter during the building’s earlier life as a car dealership.
Stone’s brewing equipment will be installed at the north end of the ground floor, with the restaurant kitchen at the opposite end. Overhead-opening glass doors on the west will lead guests toward the new patio, occupying a side of the Borreo that originally was concealed by adjoining buildings that have since been torn down.
The restaurant’s dining room will take up two-thirds of the upper floor, and a mechanical platform will be added to the roof to support a new climate-control system.
Stone, which opened in 1996 and maintains its main brewery in Escondido, is the nation’s 10th-largest craft brewer by volume and ranks 15th when mainstream giants such as Anheuser-Busch InBev and MillerCoors are taken into account, according to the Brewers Association trade group. It is one of the handful of craft beer makers mounting major expansions across the U.S. and into overseas markets, with a brewery under construction in Richmond, Virginia and another planned for Berlin, Germany.
The Borreo Building is owned by West Pueblo Partners, which bought the Italian Renaissance-style edifice from the city after gaining approval in January for its brewery and restaurant plans. The purchase was sealed after years of false starts, including abortive plans to create offices for the city Community Resources Department and the Land Trust of Napa County.
A tiny parking lot beside the Borreo will be converted into a drop-off zone for customers and delivery trucks, leaving visitors either to park at downtown garages, or walk or take taxis from nearby hotels.