Monday, March 4, 2024

Bottle Works opens in Soda Pop district with 70% of its space filled

Bottle Works has held on to its Coca-Cola Heritage, with the refurbished sign emblazoned on its front. (Port City Daily/Carl Blankenship)

WILMINGTON — A former Coca-Cola plant is now one of the city’s most unique mixed-use buildings.

Bottle Works, the new name for the centerpiece of the Soda Pop district, wears its old branding loud and proud, but the inside of the building has changed shape.

READ MORE: Developers’ $8M investment slated to transform downtown Wilmington’s Soda Pop District

Andy Hewitt, one half of Parastream Development, told a crowd gathered for the new facility’s grand opening Wednesday it was an unusual prospect. The team took 75,000 square feet of warehouse space and converted it into a space with uses ranging from prefabricated construction to clothing retail.

Parastream Development’s Andy Hewitt Holding a piece of memorabilia excavated during construction. (Port City Daily/Carl Blankenship)

As it stands now, Bottle Works is a mix of retail, offices, film studio space and large sections of what Hewitt told Port City Daily is “space for makers.”

A few current tenants include nonprofit A Safe Place, local food company Pomona Shrub Company (the sole retail tenant), Patriot Roofing and local clothing retailer Beach and Barn.

“Any time you order a piece of clothing from Beach and Barn, that order is being processed here, so it’s not just walking up to their retail store,” Hewitt said. 

Tenants started moving in at the beginning of September. With eight businesses already in place, there is 30% left to fill — production space for makers, offices and retailers.

One tenant predates the upfit. Craftspace, a two-year-old company that specializes in building structures out of repurposed shipping containers, stuck around through the renovations and occupies one of the open warehouse in the back of the building.

Craftspace architect Ben Wilker said the company started by building custom work on site and uses the factory space in Bottle Works for offsite prefabrication.

“They are actively building out those shipping containers,” Hewitt said.

Craftspace is a unique construction business that repurposes shipping containers. Its home was in Bottle Works before Parastream bought the property. (Port City Daily/Carl Blankenship)

The success of the combined 125,000 square feet of space, Hewitt said, hinged on the building, which occupies an entire block, bordered by Princess, Chestnut, 9th and 10th streets.

“We can build a building, we can make a project come to fruition, but it’s ultimately the community and the people that decide if it’s a failure or a success,” Hewitt said.

Parastream purchased four buildings and two acres of land in 2021 with the help of financing and costs totaling a $12 million investment once construction is complete. Upfitting the Bottle Works building began in February, under the purview of Monteith Construction, which is headquartered up the road at 208 Princess Street.

This amount of money and scope of the project was outside the realm of anything Hewitt or his business partner Sandy Thorpe had taken on before.

Parastream’s first project in the Soda Pop District was Hi-Wire Brewing, located a block up and completed in late 2020. They transformed a 1950’s car dealership into an 8,000 square foot brewery.

Earlier this year, adjacent to Hi-Wire, pizzeria Cugino Forno opened as well. 

Hewitt said the success of the 12,000-square-foot project gave Parastream the vision to take the risk on the larger 125,000-square-foot Coca-Cola building. Coast Capital Partners, a Charleston-based investment firm, helped secure finances. He told them Parastream had the opportunity to refit three city blocks, with a catch.

“The buildings are run down, there’s vacant land, they’re not occupied, I don’t even know if a bank will touch this,” Hewitt said. “Not only did they say, ‘Yes we can make that happen,’ they said ‘Yes, we want to partner with you and Sandy, not only to bring capital to the table, but being general partners with you.’ That was a big turning point in this project.”

Much of the other existing buildings are already occupied or spoken for. An upfit is happening at 1002 Princess St., next door, to bring the Raleigh-based Bowstring Brewyard to Willmington in the coming months.

Marine Bean, which makes specialty bean bag chairs, occupies 920 Princess and Wilmington Area Rebuilding Ministries is in 909 Princess. The developers previously told Port City Daily residential infill was on the table for the remaining open space purchased on the block.


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