The Makings of a “Brewery District”

Here is an astonishing stat: between 1985 and 2015, the number of craft breweries nationwide jumped from 27 to 4,225. The craft beer revolution has clearly made a meteoric ascent, and the formation of “brewery districts” is the main driver. 

This revolution, like many other urban economic phenomena, is highly clustered. And these clusters have historically taken shape in places that have been subject to disinvestment and deindustrialization. Depressed, formerly industrial areas with an awkward collection of teetering metal warehouses might sound unappealing to some. But breweries can fill this underserved space like a hand in a glove. Here are a few reasons why:

 

  • Due the high equipment costs of starting a brewery operation, real estate needs to be affordable, so older warehouses fit the bill. The exterior may be bland, but on the inside, the massive shimmering steel tanks that hold the fermenting golden liquid indicate a more flavorful experience.
  • Commercial-zoned areas in the middle of towns and cities tend to be close to large population bases and can be perceived as an interesting, hip destination.
  • More square footage is crucial for showcasing product and eventually expanding operations. Parking is also typically abundant.
  • Industrial sites are very well-suited for transporting beer with automatic roller doors and purpose-built office suites.

NoMo Embodies This Narrative

A few decades ago, the stretch of the Charleston Peninsula North of I-26 up North Morrison Drive (NoMo) was dilapidated and nearly barren. Now it is a economic hotbed and the last frontier of development in Downtown Charleston. It is also home to 11 craft breweries and the foundation of Charleston’s “Brewery District”.

The Growth That Made It Happen

How did this group of breweries pop onto the scene with such force? Simple, GROWTH. The area known as NoMo has exploded in the past decade, with dozens of high-profile commercial projects bringing residential units, office suites, and commerce to the neighborhood. The Morris, Charleston Tech Center, Morrison Yard Office, Pacific Box & Crate, The Quin are a few of the multi-million office dollar developments that have continued to transform the area. And as it blossomed, so did the number of people who imbibe. Massive residential communities have appeared in NoMo like Foundry Point (276 units), Morrison Yard (380 Units), Atlantic on Romney (304 units), and Lennar’s Cormac (XXX units), along with a handful of projects in planning.

The mutually beneficial relationship between craft breweries and other commercial real estate development is pretty clear: people want to be near breweries, and breweries want to be near people.

NoMo Development Stats:
Originally published by Lee & Associates Charleston June 2021, updated July 2022.

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