TARPON SPRINGS — The city that has relied on sponge diving and antique shops to lure visitors is now looking to a different attraction to help revitalize a downtown corridor: beer.
In a unanimous decision Tuesday, the City Commission, sitting as the Community Redevelopment Agency, entered into a lease agreement to turn the city's old police and fire station into a craft brewery and tasting room.
Located at 325 Lemon St., the brewery will be one of the first new establishments in that corridor. In recent years, the city has spent more than $1 million upgrading the Lemon Street area, hoping to lure new businesses.
"The craft brewery, it will be a very important addition to the downtown," said Karen Lemmons, Tarpon's economic development manager. "The city has been taking steps to create an atmosphere to attract a craft brewery and other stores to downtown, starting with the adoption of the SmartCode that promotes walkability. And that's the whole vision we are trying to achieve — the walkable downtown."
Earlier this month, the City Commission agreed to a request from Tarpon Springs Brew Co. LLC for a conditional use permit to allow consumption of beer and wine at the Lemon Street location. Because the property is owned by the CRA, it then had to agree to the terms of the lease.
"This is great and it's what we have been looking forward to," said Commissioner Townsend Tarapani, who is also a downtown business owner. "These are the types of businesses we are trying to target and it's going to be a catalyst. It's about time."
A tasting room at the brewery will be allowed to operate from 2 to 8 p.m.
The lease agreement with Tarpon Springs Brew Co. requires a $2,000 deposit and $1,250 a month in rent. After five years, the lease can be renewed for another five years.
The brewery can exercise an option to buy the property for $120,000, a price that will escalate over time. According to the city, the property is assessed at $150,000.
Since the old police station requires extensive work, the lease includes an incentive package that includes $40,000 in rental credits for work the brewery does to bring the property up to code. In addition, the city will remove equipment and furnishings and an unneeded one-story building that's on the property.
The new leaseholders said they expect to do around $100,000 worth of work on the property.
Over a 10-year period, the brewery is expected to pay nearly $200,000 in taxes and fees, city documents said. In its first year of operation, two or three full-time jobs will be created, 10 or more over the next decade.
"It's a win-win for the city," said Commissioner Jeff Larsen. "They are fixing up a building that needs fixing up and it develops some additional foot traffic for the Lemon Street area. What we have done to beautify Lemon Street sends a signal that it's a place that businesses want to come."
The old police and fire department was built in 1963. The former jail, built around 1916, was located there, too. In 2001, the city built a new public safety building on Huey Avenue.