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American Icon Brewery hoping to open by 4th of July


Michael Rechter’s ambitious plan to transform the old Diesel Power Plant into a dining and drinking destination has moved another step closer to reality, and he now hopes to have his American Icon Brewery open by the 4th of July.

The site plan for the brewery was approved by the Vero Beach Planning & Zoning Commission last week, and Rechter hopes to get the county’s OK of a $1.8 million building permit next week, along with the Vero Historic Preservation Commission’s “Special Certificate of Appropriateness.”

With those hurdles cleared, renovation will be ready to begin.

“I hope to have it open by July 4th for obvious marketing reasons,” Rechter said. “I would love to hit that deadline. But it has to be right. If we make it, we make it. We’ve been working hard the last six month.  There are teams of architects, engineers, brewery and restaurant experts, and interior designers; there are probably 15 companies involved.”

The big draw will be the beer, of course, and Rechter’s brew master is already working on “our flagship beers. There will be six styles. Once we feel really great about those, we’ll let the brew master go crazy, creating seasonal beers that will rotate all the time.”

“Our food will be as good as our beer,” Rechter added. “It will be craft food. We’ll do 25 things really well. We want to bring foodies to our place.”

Rechter has instructed his landscape architect to leave the view from Route 60 open so people driving by can get a good gander at the impressive scale and strong Art Deco lines of 1920-era building.

An open artificial turf area is planned for the lawn space between the building and Route 60. It will be “a flex-space where people can play bocce ball or spread a blanket or listen to live music and hang out. No food will be served there,” Rechter told the Planning & Zoning Commission last week.

The main entrance will be on 12th Court, on the west side of the building, with a driveway and 51-space parking lot. A large outdoor dining space, partially covered, will be front and center.

Inside, the eye will be drawn up to the 35-foot ceiling and then to the 20-foot-tall, 20-foot-long and 15-foot-wide diesel engine that used to supply electricity to the city. “We’ll have to take it apart and refurbish it and build it again,” Rechter said. To emphasize the steam-punk aesthetic, some of the housing may be left open to show the inner workings.

A 2,700-square-foot mezzanine platform will be built to allow patrons to view the diesel engine from above on one side and the brewery on the other while dining and drinking. Rechter got permission to add a small building to house the cooler, grinder and boiler for the brewery. “You’ll be able to smell the hops,” he said.

“We’re going to build a staircase of very cool reclaimed wood that goes up to the mezzanine. Or you can access it from the glass elevator,” both giving a view of the diesel engine while ascending.

The building was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 1999 and Rechter hired an architect specializing in historic renovations. Plans submitted to the State Historic Preservation Office were approved in December, making Rechter eligible to receive 20 percent of building renovation costs in tax credits from the federal government.

The building is also on the Vero Beach Historic Places Register and the city’s Historic Preservation Commission will review the plans Jan. 12. This is the first historic renovation project the commission will oversee, according to city Planning Director Tim McGarry. “There are only six or seven buildings on the register in town.”

The city sold the building to Rechter for $500,000 last year, $150,000 less than his bid of $650,000, because he agreed to take over site contamination remediation. He has hired Terracon, a nationwide environmental-remediation engineering firm, to satisfy any remaining state Department of Environmental Protection requirements not met by the city during its cleanup process.

Rechter pointed out “the levels of contamination are minimal,” and for the first time since it was built the floor will be torn up and an underground tank will be removed, possibly a source of slow-leaking contamination. Any contaminated soil will be removed before replacing the 9,000-square-foot floor. Monitoring wells will remain in place, with regular reports turned in by Terracon and onsite inspections being done by the state.

“It’s not effecting what we’re doing,” Rechter said. “We are not eating the soil and we’re not drinking the ground water.”