Beer replaces babies as Yards eyes brewery at former Destination Maternity warehouse

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Conceptual rendering of the tasting room at the planned Yards brewery at Fifth and Spring Garden Streets.

Baby bumps could be giving way to beer bellies in Northern Liberties, where Yards Brewing Co. plans to build its new suds factory in the vacant warehouse that had until recently been home to Destination Maternity Corp.

Yards is under agreement to lease up to 85,000 square feet at the maternity apparel company's former headquarters building at Fifth and Spring Garden Streets, part of a plan to boost production beyond the capacity of its current brewery about a mile away, company officials said.

The owner of the Destination Maternity building, the Bryn Mawr-based investment company Alliance Partners HSP L.L.C., presented details of the plan to the Northern Liberties Neighborhood Association on Monday night. Larry Freedman, the group's zoning chairman, said the proposal to allow manufacturing in an area that currently bars such uses was under review.

Yards' plan to relocate there would make good on the 21-year-old company's vow to remain in Philadelphia, and could help invigorate an edge of Northern Liberties that has lagged the rest of the neighborhood's rapid growth.

"We chose Philadelphia when we started the company, and I couldn't see us not being a part of this," Yards founder and president Tom Kehoe said.

Yards, Philadelphia's biggest brewer, would be the first of a hoped-for mix of users at the 225,000-square-foot building in the unrevitalized area between booming Northern Liberties and Old City.

The brewery has the potential to help activate a quiet section of Spring Garden Street dominated by strip malls and industrial buildings left over from previous decades' redevelopment plans, said Harris Steinberg, executive director of the Lindy Institute for Urban Innovation at Drexel University.

"It looks like a winner," Steinberg said. "Beer and coffee are the two drugs that have always fueled city social lives."

Alliance paid $13.4 million for the Destination Maternity building in August 2014, according to city records. The maternity-wear company has since moved to Moorestown.

The investment firm previously envisioned developing the site as an office complex, but it rethought that plan after a zoning change for the area permitted a wider variety of uses for what it is calling its "SoNo" project, said Matt Handel, an Alliance senior associate.

"Yards would be a great anchor tenant," Handel said in an email. "With a loyal following that extends far beyond Philadelphia, it is no surprise that multiple national retailers and creative office tenants have already expressed interest in joining Yards."

At its current 38,000-square-foot space near the Delaware River at Poplar Street, Yards is capable of producing about 60,000 barrels of its Philadelphia Pale Ale, Love Stout, and other brews.

The company aims to open the new facility in late 2017 with a 100,000-barrel capacity - which could potentially be doubled - in an effort to reach more deeply into its market of mid-Atlantic drinkers concentrated around Philadelphia.

Key to that plan is the addition of a canning line the additional space would accommodate, opening up new sales channels such as ballparks while appealing to consumers who prefer canned beer, Kehoe said.

The strategy puts Yards among a growing number of craft breweries nationwide that are embracing aluminum, with canned-beer volumes growing to 10 percent of craft production in 2014 from 2 percent in 2012, according to data from the Brewers Association in Boulder, Colo.

Yards' planned location also would have a larger restaurant, where it could serve such dishes as its trademark chili - made with meat from buffalo raised in Bucks County on the brewery's spent grain - as well as an event space.

The new brewery would be Yards' fifth since its founding in Manayunk in 1994. Going with the Spring Garden Street site meant eschewing offers of generous financial support from other municipalities that wanted the company for themselves, said chief operating officer Trevor Prichett, a transplant from Massachusetts.

"We're Philadelphia's beer," he said. "Finding this location to build an iconic brewery site is really ideal for us."

jadelman@phillynews.com

215-854-2615 @jacobadelman

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