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Bristol brewery and partners seek to turn vacant school into Ivywild hub



To say that a brewery was moving into an elementary school — without first noting that the latter has been vacant for the past year — would sound absurd, if not illegal.

But assuming all continues to go well with financing and rezoning, construction could begin next May that would enable Bristol Brewing Co. to move a couple hundred feet away from South Tejon Street into Ivywild Elementary School, with a few friends in tow.

Brewery owner Mike Bristol, current building partner Joe Coleman of the Blue Star (and also Nosh and La'au's Taco Shop), and Jim Fennell of the Fennell Group architecture firm are under contract with Colorado Springs School District 11 to purchase the decommissioned Ivywild, at 1604 S. Cascade Ave. In its 35,500 square feet, they envision a sustainably developed, mixed-use space with several symbiotic relationships between occupants, anchored around Bristol and a central plaza area.

Coleman intends to move pastry chef Alicia Prescott into the building to run a bakery; Pikes Peak Urban Gardens' Larry Stebbins would help construct a greenhouse and community gardens to grow food for Coleman's ventures; an as-of-yet-unnamed coffee roaster would open a shop; the Smokebrush Foundation's Kat and Bob Tudor would curate the wide, tall central hallway between classrooms-turned-tasting rooms, labs and offices; and a gymnasium could host everything from yoga classes and community meetings to evening concerts on a small stage. Residential components could also follow at a later phase.

That's the plan. The motivation?

"We're running out of room at the brewery," says Bristol, who's had an eye out for a new home the past few years. Though the proposed brewery space — 14,400 square feet, about 50 percent more than his current spot — would buy him room to grow, he's clear that he's committed to brewing only for Colorado, in Colorado Springs. Underlying that primary necessity, the partners speak about revitalizing the greater neighborhood with a community focal point.

"This is a model project as far as the city is concerned," says Fennell, who plans to move his nine-person staff into the building, also. Fennell, whose many projects include the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center's renovations in the 1980s, relates the project to Dream City 2020 initiatives such as "enhancing neighborhood identity" around established, historic landmarks. The main building was constructed in 1916, with south and north wings added in the '50s.

Fennell will seek to make the complex as sustainable as possible, in part with physical features like a geoexchange system, a structure of underground pipes that uses the consistent temperature of the earth for cooling, heating and hot water, and in part by harmonizing the businesses and their byproducts.

He'll seek to recapture heat from the brewing process for the building, for example, and also transfer Bristol's greywater into the greenhouse to grow items like watercress, which is of great benefit to Coleman's culinary team.

District 11 confirms that the trio's proposal passed through its board, and Bristol says the city and neighborhood have thus far signaled support for the project.

"That won't make the process any quicker," he says, "but we feel pretty good about getting it done."

The total price tag, including building purchase and renovations, is expected to be roughly $3 million. Fennell anticipates construction to take around eight months, putting a tentative grand opening on the space as a whole sometime in spring 2012.

Bristol and Coleman say they haven't decided what to do with Bristol's current space in the event this ambitious, shared dream becomes a reality.

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