YORKVILLE – Ed Williams is bullish on the future of Yorkville’s historic downtown business district.
The Yorkville developer is the patriarch of The Williams Group, which he operates with his wife, Karin, and son Mike.
“I see a lot of potential to make downtown Yorkville a destination,” Williams said, pointing to a plethora of restaurants, bars and shops in the downtown area.
The Williams Group owns numerous commercial and residential properties in Yorkville, Montgomery and Sugar Grove.
The development firm’s latest project is the renovation of the two-story commercial structure at 101 S. Bridge St. (Route 47).
Located at the northwest corner of South Bridge and West Hydraulic streets on the south bank of the Fox River, the former Investor Tools building is best identified by the “Dickson 1954″ tablet inscribed on the facade of the brick edifice.
The building’s exterior has been noticeably improved since Williams bought the structure earlier this year, sporting new picture windows, doorways and exterior lighting and trim.
Also new to the exterior is a sign designating the building as “Riverside Plaza.”
There have been additions to the building over the years and one of these will be the home to Fox Republic Brewing.
The seven- or possibly 10-barrel brewing operation will feature indoor seating for about 100 beer-lovers, with an outdoor patio along the building’s Hydraulic Street frontage.
The 3,300-square-foot space features a vaulted ceiling supported by a huge truss.
“When you look at this space and envision what it can be, this has so many possibilities,” Williams said.
Normally, the business model for The Williams Group is to renovate building spaces and lease them to commercial tenants. However, for the Fox Republic project, Williams is one of five investors in the brewing enterprise.
Williams is keeping the identity of the brewmaster for Fox Republic, who currently works for another brewery, under wraps for the time being.
The target for opening the new brewery is summer 2023.
Meanwhile, Williams has already attracted two new businesses to the building.
Iconic Coffee Shop, occupying a prominent first-floor location looking out to the intersection of Bridge and Hydraulic, recently opened for business.
Foxes Den Meadery, which will serve mead from a first-floor taproom, is expected to open soon. A balcony opening out from the taproom offers a view of the Fox River.
Owner Rico Bianchi of Yorkville already has begun production in the building’s basement.
Mead is an alcoholic beverage made by fermenting honey mixed with water and frequently with additional ingredients including fruits or grains. The drink is often described as honey wine.
In addition to Iconic and Foxes Den, the building is the new home for Second Chance Cardiac Solutions, which moved from another location. The company sells automated external defibrillators for persons suffering a heart attack.
On the second floor, Williams has created two one-bedroom residential apartments, fully furnished and marketed as short-term, month-to-month rentals for persons in transition.
The building also is home to Red’s Baseball Academy, an indoor training facility with batting cages, weightlifting equipment and an open space covered with artificial turf.
Mike Williams, a 2014 Yorkville High School graduate armed with a degree in finance from the University of Illinois, shares his father’s passion for redeveloping properties in his hometown.
“It’s what I dreamed of as a kid,” Mike Williams said.
Yorkville city officials, eager to see redevelopment projects and new businesses in the downtown, have worked with The Williams Group to provide incentives for the building restoration project and changes in the city liquor code to accommodate the meadery and the brewery.
In the spring, the Yorkville City Council established a new classification of liquor license for micro-wineries, which will allow for the manufacture and consumption of mead wine on the premises.
Earlier this summer, aldermen amended the classification to eliminate the requirement for breweries and micro-wineries to sell food.
When complete, The Williams Group will have invested more than $2 million in the building project, including acquisition of the property and the extensive renovations.
For the renovations to the Fox Republic Brewery space, the developer will spend $270,000, excluding the cost of the brewing equipment.
On Sept. 13, the City Council approved an agreement that will reimburse the developer up to 25% of that cost, or $67,000 in tax increment financing district funds.
That’s on top of up to $400,000 in TIF funds for the first phase of the project, but that will be dependent on the city extending the life of the downtown TIF district, which is set to expire in 2029.
A TIF district is a mechanism commonly used by municipalities to encourage redevelopment in underutilized or blighted areas.
Property tax payments to local units of government are frozen, with the increased value, known as the increment, placed into a fund for incentives and public improvements. Under state statute, TIF districts have a life of 23 years, but may be extended.
The city also waived some building permit fees for the project.
In exchange, the agreement calls for The Williams Group to grant property easements to the city.
One of the easements would stretch along the south bank of the Fox River from the bridge west to a point near the former post office building, now occupied by the Yorkville Parks and Recreation Department. The city hopes to sell that building for redevelopment.
The city already owns and operates Riverfront Park on the south bank of the river just east of the bridge.
Ed Williams said he would like to see the creation of a walkway under the bridge, allowing pedestrians to safely move between Riverfront Park and the new linear riverwalk city officials are envisioning.
The other easement is for the northwest corner of West Hydraulic and South Bridge streets on a grassy area next to the building.
The highly visible location is one the city has had its eye on for the installation of a sculpture or another form of art.
The building has a parking lot with 54 spaces accessible from Hydraulic Street.
Williams owns additional undeveloped property behind the Dhuse Chiropractic building, as well as the parking area to the immediate east of the old post office building at 201 W. Hydraulic St.