Real Estate - Commercial

TRU Colors Brewing Wants To Buy City's Castle Street Property

By Christina Haley O'Neal, posted Jan 21, 2019
TRU Colors Brewing Co. now is looking at the former Wave Transit facility at the corner of 11th and Castle streets as its primary pick for developing a Wilmington headquarters.

TRU Colors Chairman George Taylor on Monday said the company, which employs gang members, has plans to approach the city of Wilmington about the property. The Wilmington City Council is scheduled to take up a resolution about the property at its meeting Tuesday.

This resolution requests that the council declare the city-owned real property at 1110 Castle St., to be surplus property, and for the site to go up for a “negotiated offer, advertisement, and upset bids," the resolution states. Taylor said he hopes to talk to the council during the meeting.

The company announced last year that it had leased space in the Dutch Square Industrial Park with plans to open a brewery but has since changed course.

TRU Colors, which has worked out of Untappd's offices at 21 S. Front St. since forming, did not end up moving into the 40,000-square-foot Dutch Square property, Taylor said. TRU Colors Brewing still holds the lease at Dutch Square, he said, but has worked out a deal with the landlord to terminate at the end of this month.

TRU Colors did not make the move, Taylor said, because officials decided they wanted to move the headquarters to be closer to the community it serves.

"It became clear we needed to have a headquarters in the middle of the community we were working with, and that building didn’t meet any of those criteria," Taylor said of the Dutch Square space.

The city purchased the Castle Street property in 1974. The property was used as a bus maintenance facility until Wave Transit left the site in June 2015.

The 1.5-acre site has two commercial buildings and a metal fuel island canopy, according to city documents.

Taylor said TRU Colors would like to purchase the property and hopes to avoid going through the lengthy upset bid process.

"We’re not asking the city to give it to us. We just want to pay fair market value and not have to go through the upset bid, because it takes so long, and we just, we can't sit around for six months while that bidding process goes through,” Taylor said.

The site would allow for a buildout that could house space to carry out TRU Colors' activities, offices and brewing operations, Taylor said.

TRU Colors has taken time away from its brewery plans to focus on its outreach over the past six months. In early 2018, Taylor expanded the focus from just brewing beer to a larger emphasis on its social mission.

“What I learned over the last year was that our social mission was every bit as important, if not more so, than our beer business and that it was paramount that we had both things ready to launch at the same time or it would be difficult. It wouldn't make sense,” Taylor said. 

“And so we stalled the beer business last year to figure out exactly what our social mission would look like and how to build a platform that we believe we can have access to across the country to talk about the things that we care about, which are generally poverty, racial divisiveness, violence and those sorts of things," he said.

TRU Colors is looking into expanding into other cities, along with its presence in Atlanta.

"All this stuff had to be put in place before we could even consider moving into beer,” he added.

TRU Colors is also eying three other options in the downtown Wilmington area for its new base. The Castle Street property, however, is its first choice, Taylor said.

“We hope that the city will see that TRU Colors adds a lot to that community through jobs, through decreasing violence and through awareness, frankly, around the country of what Wilmington is doing to deal with some of these really difficult problems,” Taylor said.

“It would be a shame if, for example, they put it through an open upset bid process, and it turns out to be condos. I mean condos are great, but that’s probably not the No. 1 thing that that community needs right now,” he added. 

The company, Taylor said, could bring about 100 jobs with the move. The company currently employs 42 people, he said.

TRU Colors set up a petition to gain community support for the project, and received about 1,200 signatures as of Sunday night, Taylor said.

“We just wanted to show the city that the community is behind us. I'm sure ... they would want to make sure that the community wanted us there and thought it was a good idea. And so that's our only goal in doing it, and that was just to save a little time and demonstrate that the community does want us in the building," Taylor said of setting up the online petition.

There is another reason, Taylor said, about why the site has meaning for TRU Colors.

“It’s chance, I suppose, but TRU Colors was sparked about three years ago when a 16-year-old got shot and killed, Shane Simpson, and Shane was shot on the corner of where this property is," Taylor said. “So there's a strong sentimental reason for us being there and that’s important to us. And along with that, there are a lot of business and community reasons as well.”

Simpson was fatally shot in a drive-by shooting at the corner of 11th and Castle streets in December 2015.

“This is the property we think best suits what we need and allows us to have the largest impact on our community," Taylor said.
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