Grosse Pointe ParkFebruary 27, 2014
Renovations to turn church into restaurant and microbrewery continue
By K. Michelle Moran
C & G Staff Writer
GROSSE POINTE PARK — It’s a transition that might make some religious leaders frown, but historical Grace United Church of Christ — in The Park business district at 1175 Lakepointe, at Kercheval — is getting new life as a microbrewery and beer garden.
Mark Rieth, who owns Atwater Brewery in Detroit, is creating a microbrewery, microdistillery and brewpub at the church, which will be called Atwater in the Park. The Cotton family, who owns the building, approached Rieth — himself a Park resident — with the idea.
“I looked at this as a great opportunity,” he said recently as the building was still undergoing renovations. “Really, it’s all about reinvesting in this area and having some fun along the way.”
Rieth said he’s bringing in a German brewhaus from Munich to make beer at the new Atwater, which will be placed in the area that now serves as the church’s altar. He said they also intend to begin distilling spirits sometime in the middle of the year.
Atwater in the Park will have a restaurant, aspiritss well, with roughly 150 seats inside and another 80 seats in an outdoor beer garden. There will be a beer hall in the basement that can seat roughly 50 guests, Rieth said.
Rieth said they shut down the restaurant at Atwater Brewery in Detroit about 3 1/2 years ago to focus on beverage production and shipping, as well as tasting events, so this is a chance for the brewery to have a restaurant again. At the Park location, he said they’ll be making small test batches that can be brought back to the downtown Detroit location for large-scale production.
When he and his business partners entered the church, Rieth said their reaction was, “Wow.” They’re retaining as much of the old church as possible, including the vibrant stained glass windows, original slate flooring and the wooden pews, which will be repurposed as seating for diners. The heating and cooling system is getting an update, however, Rieth said.
Rob Ermanni, developer for the project, said the church was built circa 1936.
“We wanted to keep it as close to original as possible … without having to sacrifice comfort,” Rieth said.
City Manager Dale Krajniak praised the business owners for trying to maintain the historical church structure.
“They’ve really gone out of their way to preserve the character of the church,” Krajniak said. “It’s really impressive.”
According to unofficial minutes from the Jan. 27 City Council meeting, the council voted unanimously in favor of the project. Public Safety Chief David Hiller was on record as saying he had no objections to the liquor license being sought by Rieth.
Krajniak said the Atwater facility should be an asset for the city, attracting a new generation of young homebuyers and families.
“We’re looking at drawing even more young people into the community,” he said.
The resurgence of the business district hasn’t been without related growing pains. Residents nearby, many of whom lack driveways because their homes and flats were built in a preautomotive era, have complained of a parking shortage as customers at the new businesses and restaurants occupy already scarce spots on their blocks.
Ermanni, the developer for the Cotton family’s Green Space Holdings, said they intend to increase parking in the district when the weather clears. The former Art’s Party Store at 14945 Kercheval, and another former business, will be torn down this spring to make way for additional parking, and Ermanni said they’ve also acquired additional parking in the area that will be surfaced. At press time, he said they were still calculating the number of spaces they should be adding to the district, but he said the parking question would be “100 percent addressed” by these changes.
“There will be plenty of parking for Red Crown, Atwater and any future restaurants we are in talks with,” Ermanni said. “Certainly, this development is not intended to upset any residents in this community.”
However, because of the cold and the snow, he said they haven’t been able to get started yet on creating new parking. That’s not expected to happen until after the weather breaks this spring.
Although no date had been set yet, Rieth said they hoped to open sometime in April.
For more information, visit the restaurant’s Facebook page. At press time, a website was in the works at www.atwaterinthepark.com.