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Old buildings ferment into stylish breweries

May 14, 2018
Adam Stanley, The Globe and Mail

The building used to be painted an undesirable mustard-yellow. Now it’s known more for the golden ales and lagers poured inside.

In Ottawa’s Centretown neighbourhood, about 10 minutes south of Parliament Hill, Flora Hall Brewing – a craft brewpub serving up nine styles of beer and a menu of shareable snacks – has opened its doors to residents to much fanfare. In just a few months, more than 15,000 customers have imbibed.

Much of the charm of the community brewery is thanks to the changes to its 90-year-old building, and Flora Hall is one example of craft breweries across Canada taking on mid-century structures and turning them into modern spaces for food and drink.

The 4,440-square-foot heritage building in Ottawa was first home to Welch and Johnston, an engineering firm. It was then leased to two garages, one specifically for motorcycles and the other for cars and trucks. A proposal in 2004 to make 37 Flora St. into a multilevel apartment complex fell through, and it sat empty for nearly 15 years (with its fading yellow facade) before Flora Hall founder and owner Dave Longbottom bought the building with capital he had from starting, then selling, a number of Ottawa-based businesses over the past three decades.

He transformed the space by adding a separate area for brewing, a commercial kitchen, and two floors of drinking and eating space. He was pleasantly surprised during renovations to discover hardwood floors in the upper level of the hall – a memento from the original Welch and Johnston business. He kept them.

There were constraints in renovating the heritage structure, however.

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