City to Sell Former Library Building for Brewpub, Arcade

The Canby City Council will consider next week a proposal to sell the city-owned former library building on NW 3rd and Holly to Oregon City Brewing Co., which plans to transform it into a brewpub and cidery with a family-friendly arcade, indoor food carts, atrium and retail spaces.

Dubbed “The Beer Library,” the concept had seemed all but dead last June, after councilors had selected the proposal as the one most in line with their vision for the corner property — but rejected O.C. Brewing’s purchase price of $10,000 as a non-starter.

That price, offered during a particularly depressed and uncertain time for hospitality-based businesses like O.C. Brewing due to the pandemic, had indeed been well short of the $950,000 the property was appraised at several years ago.

But, saying he and his team remained “bullish” on Canby, O.C. Brewing Co. owner and founder Bryce Morrow had increased their offer and, evidently, the talks had continued throughout last year.

On Wednesday, Feb. 3, the City Council will consider a proposal to sell the property to Morrow for $500,000. The city will also maintain a $100,000 promissory note on the property, which will come due if the new owners do not complete at least $1 million in upgrades.

The former Canby Public Library on NW 3rd and Holly will be sold to become the city’s first brewery, if councilors approve the proposal.

The work required to renovate the aging building and realize Morrow’s ambitious vision for The Beer Library is substantial. According to the city, O.C. Brewing had originally anticipated the improvements at $1.5 million — later revising those estimates to be as high as $2.3 million.

The brewpub would feature three permanent indoor food carts offering a diverse array of cuisines, on-site brewing including the company’s burgeoning barrel aging and blending operations and an arcade, which would be open to all ages until late in the evening.

The developers would drastically transform the existing space, including peeling back a portion of the roof to create an outdoor courtyard in the heart of the project.

They would also retain two other retail spaces they would seek to lease out to complementary businesses. In short, The Beer Library would be a multi-use, family-friendly brewery “that aims to be a living room for the community.”

Reached Wednesday evening, Morrow confirmed to The Canby Current that the project was moving ahead largely according to the designs that were first submitted to the city in April 2020.

Proposed interior layout for The Beer Library. Courtesy Oregon City Brewing and the city of Canby.

“As you know, it’s been kind of a long, drawn-out journey to get here,” he said. “But it’s just like anything: If at first you don’t succeed — try, try again.”

The main challenges in realizing Morrow’s vision for the building — particularly the indoor atrium — will be its structural integrity and seismic capabilities, the full extent of which won’t be known until the team’s architects and engineers take a closer look.

But Morrow is hopeful the courtyard concept can be carried out because it’s the one opportunity to introduce some outdoor space into the project.

And, now the burning question: Will it still be called The Beer Library?

“It will be something close to that,” he said. “I can guarantee it will say ‘library’ in the name. From all perspectives, it will be really close to our original proposal.”

Possible branding concepts for The Beer Library. Courtesy Oregon City Brewing and the city of Canby.

Many hurdles remain — not the least of which is the City Council actually signing off on the purchase next week — but Morrow appeared ready to hit the ground running. He said he hopes to have the bulk of construction completed by April 2022.

Morrow and his team have some experience with projects like this — having transformed a former ambulance shop and carpet store in downtown Oregon City into their current flagship location.

“We’re really excited, for us and for downtown Canby,” he said. “We think it’s a great location, across from the park. You know, it really is the heart of Canby. And we think it’s going to be really great for the community to have that building activated.”

The former Canby Public Library has been vacant since 2016 when the city constructed the new library and civic center on NE 2nd Avenue. The city had unsuccessfully sought requests for proposals to reinvent the property on three prior occasions — in 2017, 2018 and February 2020.

In 2019, the city began negotiations with another brewery, Canby Brewing Co., which was interested in leasing the property, but those talks ultimately fell through.

Later that year, the city explored the possibility of keeping the building and turning it into a public market with spaces available for retail, restaurant, and office — but balked when estimates for the renovation topped $3 million.

A $200,000 Oregon Main Street Revitalization grant the city received to redevelop the former library building in 2019 is still active, Stickel confirmed Thursday, and it can be passed through to a private property owner.

“We are working with Oregon City Brewing and the state to ensure it can be passed through to them,” Stickel said. “However, many of their proposed improvements are similar to what we had envisioned as far as roll-up doors and new windows.”

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