Saturday, December 20, 2014

Brewery Relocation Plan and Train Station Renovation Are Latest Milestones in Downtown's Renaissance

It's been a heady few weeks of positive developments in downtown Framingham as the calendar edges toward the end of 2014.

 First, after more than a year of anticipation and extensive renovations, the Deluxe Depot Diner opened last week in the historic former train station at the intersection of Waverly Street and Concord Street, in a nineteenth century gem of a building designed by noted architect H.H. Richardson,

The restaurant, which seats 220 patrons, is the third one owned by the husband and wife team of Don and Daryl Levy, who also run similar businesses in Newton and Watertown. One of their claims to fame is serving hearty breakfasts all day, but there is also an extensive lunch and dinner menu as well as a full bar. The interior design is a stunner, incorporating both original aspects of the building structure with Victorian-influenced "steampunk" fixtures. Initial reviews have been quite positive, with many people remarking that this is the kind of eatery that will bring them downtown regularly.

 Then, this week, came the long-rumored announcement from Jack's Abby Brewing, the South Side craft brewery that has grown meteorically in just three years, that they will be relocating to a much larger facility in one of the former Dennison Manufacturing buildings downtown on Clinton Street, just a short distance from their present location on Morton Street.

The brewery, which has won numerous awards for its beers, will grow from its current 12,000 square foot home to 67,000 square feet, including a 5,000 square foot restaurant. Construction will begin next spring with an anticipated opening by the end of 2015.

 The significance of this announcement and its positive impact on downtown Framingham can't be underestimated. First, it will mean that a major manufacturing facility bringing several dozen new jobs will be operating in the heart of downtown. Jack's Abby estimates that they will hire about 25 new employees for the new facility, doubling their present head count. Second, the addition of a restaurant serving up to 24 of the brewery's beers on draft will become a magnet for bringing people downtown for a pint, dinner, or both.

Just step into the tap room at the current brewery on a Friday night or Saturday to see the demand for their products as people line up to buy growlers of beer or hang out for a while, working their way through a sampler of the brewery's offerings or a pint of their favorite brew. And, as a big craft beer fan, having visited microbreweries and brewpubs all over North America for twenty-plus years, I can tell you that they are often bellwether businesses that have infused new vitality into many small towns and big cities alike, and attract additional businesses in the food, beverage, and entertainment industries.

2015 should be an interesting year in Framingham as dynamic businesses like the Deluxe Depot Diner and Jack's Abby Brewing continue to attract more people downtown.