Business Section

Monday, October 18, 1999

Editorial - Beer Mugs Hoisted To Nob Hill Partners

   A deal between the buyer of the historic Jones Motor Co.  building and a County Commission that wanted to buy the '30s vintage architectural gem is good news for the Nob Hill district.
   The building at Central and Wellesley SE was a sad eyesore, long vacant and vandalized, when a group of community activists enlisted government aid to rehabilitate it.  As a county owned building, its appropriate use would have been as a community center.
   Bernalillo County earmarked $800,000 of a $3.37 million parks and recreation bond issue going on the November 1998 ballot for the project.  Voters, as they have in the past, approved the parks and recreation bond issue.
   But the county wasn't the only interested prospect or, apparently, even the most motivated.  That's hardly surprising; the striking curvilinear building is located in a thriving commercial district.
   One of the derelict building's neighboring businesses, Kelly's Brewing, a restaurant that crafts its own beer, had outgrown its premises and was looking for a place to expand.  Kelly's got its bid in before - and much higher than - the county.
   The County Commission initially voted 4-1 to back away from a hostile takeover and to partner with the business in pursuing the common goal of Kelly's, the county, neighboring businesses and residents: save the building and preserve its architecture.
   To that end, the county paid $80,000 for control in perpetuity over the facade of the building.  The investment assures renovation work will be to the standards of the city''s historic preservation architect and the state historic preservation office, according to Tom Rutherford, who represents the neighborhood on the commission.
   The county will join the new owners' appeal to reconsider a permit for the microbrewery operation on

the premises.  The permit was rejected on a finding that expansion of Kelly's would have a negative impact on the neighborhood and its often-strained parking capacity.  That may be, but Kelly's will expand regardless of whether it can brew on site - the only issue before the city zoning officer.
   The county's leading its advocacy on this point is welcome, as is its advocacy on behalf of residential neighbors in minimizing adverse effects of a larger Kelly's.  The agreement has the restaurant working with the Nob Hill Neighborhood Association on a pact that should prevent residents from getting any hangovers from the brew pub or its clientele.
   But the best news is that the primary goal of preservation will be achieved without taking the building off the tax rolls and at minimal public cost.  That means the county can take the balance of $720,000, shop for another building and stretch the East Central renaissance that much further.