It started in 2011 with one question via Facebook: Would you drink Chattanooga Whiskey?
Then came the fight to change the law about manufacturing liquor in Hamilton County.
Now, leaders with Chattanooga Whiskey have announced that the Tennessee Stillhouse will be located in the heart of downtown on the corner of Fourth and Broad streets.
“Not since the Tennessee Aquarium opened has such a major change come to downtown,” City Councilman Chris Anderson said Thursday at the announcement.
Leaders initially thought they would put the distillery on the Southside, but the downtown space is double the size of that space.
It is also situated in a better location for foot traffic, and everyone who gets off the interstate at the Fourth Street exit will pass by the building.
Some area residents expressed disappointment that the distillery won’t be on the Southside, which has blossomed in recent years. And co-founder of Chattanooga Whiskey Joe Ledbetter has a special attachment to that area of town, but the new location allows for more growth.
The Fort Street location was about 30,000 square feet and would have been a $2 million investment. The 60,000-square-feet downtown location will be four floors. It will be a $6 million investment.
“We chose this location because of our scalability,” co-founder Tim Piersant said Thursday. “It gives us more room for production growth.”
Leaders are aiming to break ground on the renovations in March 2014 and hope to have it complete by October or November 2014, Piersant said.
There will be a tasting room where tourists and area residents can try the locally made spirits. The new location will also be home to the bottling, aging and distilling processes. And visitors will be able to tour the facility.
Crews are going to change the outside of the building, Piersant also said.
“We will change the outside façade,” he said. “It will look very attractive, and maybe you’ll even get a sneak peek of the production that’s happening inside.”
Company leaders will work with local architect Thomas Palmer and general contractor T.G. Edwards on the design and build-out of the building.
“This is exactly the kind of project we like to work on,” Palmer said in a prepared statement. “Transforming this building will not only improve and bring more attention to Chattanooga’s downtown, but will also help a local business grow and become something significant.”
When the stillhouse opens, officials expect it to create 25 jobs. And Piersant said there’s no reason to think that number won’t double within the first year.
For phase two of the project, crews will develop a rooftop event space, he also said.
Leaders with the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce said that the addition of the distillery will be a welcome change that will give the area a boost.
“It takes an old building in a very prominent location and makes something nice out of it,” Rob Bradham, vice president of public strategies at the Chattanooga Chamber, said.
Updated @ 2:21 p.m. on 10/31/13 to add more information.