A vacant building at the heart of downtown Norton once considered for demolition has gotten a second lease on life. Recent renovations have transformed it into Southwest Virginia’s first cidery.
Watch the video to learn more about the project from start to finish!
The project to reimagine the former auto repair shop began in 2016 when the city of Norton launched a downtown master planning process that included plans to redevelop the building. Owned by the city’s Industrial Development Authority (IDA), part of the property was being used for Norton’s indoor farmers market, with the building that now houses Sugar Hill Cidery primarily used for storage.
The primary goal for redeveloping the building – regarded at that time as an eyesore and derelict property – was to help establish it as the key property for sparking catalytic change throughout downtown Norton.
In 2018, Norton’s IDA secured an Industrial Revitalization Fund (IRF) grant totaling $480,000 to begin renovating the building. The IDA invested approximately $700,000 as a match for the awarded IRF funds. As renovation work commenced, the city also began discussing with the owners of Sugar Hill Brewing Company, a brewery located 20 miles east of Norton in St. Paul, to open a second location in Norton.
The renovations and discussions paid off. Following six months of construction and an additional private investment totaling $270,000 for equipment and furnishings, Sugar Hill Cidery held its grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony on Sept. 4, 2019. So far, the cidery has hired 45 employees, and owners Greg and Jennifer Bailey have plans to expand this tally by about five full-time positions. The couple also plans to purchase $89,000 worth of locally grown heritage apples from Virginia farmers to produce their cider over the next few years.
In addition, the IDA will also be investing $300,000 in renovations to the second floor as a multi-use space. The city also secured a 2017 Community Development Block Grant for downtown revitalization that will also address some of the parking lot improvements and exterior streetscaping on this parcel.