In years past, people who drank too much beer might have wound up at the Harvard police station. Now, the building is being repurposed and soon will be a place where people can come together to hoist a beer.
The Harvard City Council voted, 5-2, Tuesday to name Harvard resident Fernando Carrera the new owner of the former police station, located at 201 W. Front St., after presentations by interested buyers to the council. Carrera also submitted the highest of the three bids the city received for the property, offering $25,000 for the building.
Carrera now plans to convert the building into a brew pub.
“We think Harvard needs more enticing places, such as a brew pub, that would be appealing to our town and attract a lot of locals and tourism,” said Sonia Castaneda, Carrera’s daughter, who presented the business plan to the council on his behalf.
The Harvard Police Department moved in April from the Front Street building to their new location at 203 W. Diggins St.
Castaneda touted her father’s business experience, including the current trucking company he owns and previous restaurants and bars he has also owned. She said the inspiration for their decision to purse the former police station was to create a gathering spot for families.
“This is our hometown, and we want to give and reinvest in our community,” Castaneda said.
The location of the building in Harvard’s downtown and its short walking distance from the city’s Metra station make it an attractive place for a business, Castaneda said, and they hope the location will help attract commuters returning from work and think it can be ready to open in 2023.
“Food trends and food services are changing, and this would continue to diversify Harvard. Our aim is to create a neighborhood gathering place,” Castaneda said.
Converting the building into a microbrewery was an attractive idea to some aldermen.
“When I think of a brew pub and I think of that building, I think that’s something that could be done and be done fairly quickly,” Alderman Charles Gorman said.
However, others weren’t sure it was the kind of new business the city needed.
“The competition for alcohol service and food is pretty stiff in Harvard already. We have a lot of restaurants and a lot of bars,” Alderman Daniel Carncross said.
The city received two other bids for the property. Orrin Kinney, owner of The Starline Factory, a wedding venue in Harvard, submitted a bid for $15,000 in hopes of turning the building into a hotel with about 30 rooms to compliment the wedding venue. Kinney said adding a hotel to his business would allow more people to stay in Harvard rather than Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, when visiting the area.
The parent company of the new owner of the Motorola campus also submitted a bid for the property. CAI Investments, a property management and development company from Las Vegas, submitted a bid to buy the former police station for $5,000. CAI did not present to the council Tuesday or submit plans on what they would do with the building, frustrating aldermen.
“The consideration has to be once we sell the building, we have no control over the building,” Alderman Jay Schulz said.
Aldermen agreed it was best to vote on the two local bids from Carrera and Kinney, so the future of the building is not left uncertain.
Closing on the sale with Carrera will be within the next two moths, City Administrator David Nelson said. While the $25,000 sale for the 16,000-square-foot building is more than the city expected, Nelson said they do not have any special plans for the money and it will be used for general expenses for now.