One of Sudbury's ugliest eyesores is about to become one of the city's most ambitious projects.
Greg Oldenburg, a Sudbury-born developer now based in Toronto hopes to turn the 107-year-old Northern Breweries building on Lorne Street into loft apartments. He bought the landmark building for $850,000.
Standing in a freshly swept loading bay of the echoing century-old brewery, he unveiled his plans for the new Brewer Lofts on Wednesday morning.
Oldenburg envisions as many as 50 loft apartments, a rooftop bar with a sauna, a ground-level cafe, a contemporary art gallery, some commercial space he thinks would be great for another brewery, plus more space still to spare in the 60,000 square foot factory.
Some of the building would be demolished, Oldenburg said, to make way for a new eight-storey addition, where about half of the lofts would be housed.
Asked how much it will cost to make those plans a reality, Oldenburg answered with a figure of $12 million, but admitted that it could be much more than that.
"You know at any point, there may be a point where all this stops," he said. "Where I just go 'This is way more complicated and fundamentally way more expensive than I think anybody could have ever imagined.'"
Advised not to buy building
That's what happened to the last owner. Druve Sookram bought the old brewery in 2010, aiming to turn it into a depot for his tour bus company.
"I found out that it's a lot more demanding than I had expected," Sookram said in March 2013.
Oldenburg will discover in the coming months if his dreams for Northern Breweries will sink or soar but, for now, he's optimistically aiming to open the doors to tenants by the end of 2016.
He said he was advised not to buy it in the first place.
"Some told me you don't want to do this. It's way too expensive," said Oldenburg, who grew up in Sudbury's Minnow Lake neighbourhood.
"But the price I have it at allows me to at least go forward without knowing I'm into it $5-10 million just to buy the building."
Like most condominium projects, he said he needs people to buy the lofts before he can transform the old brewery.
"Fundamentally I need to have 50 people come forward and say yes, here's my deposit. I believe in what you're doing. I love it. And I'm willing to wait two years for it to be built. So there's a certain amount of momentum you need for these types of projects."